The stress from factory farming causes unnatural behaviour in pigs. Pigs are intelligent animals that need mental stimulation. So in a cramped environment where there is nothing to do and all they see are other pigs, they develop what are known as ‘pig vices’. They bite one another on the tails. Not for any malicious purpose, just because they’re stressed and it’s something to do. It’s the only thing there is to do. Once this behaviour starts, it spreads quickly and can present risks of infection. So to curb any ‘pig vices’, the factory farms will tail dock and teeth clip.
Tail docking is carried out on piglets without anaesthetic. They are just held still and the tail is cut off with a pair of pliers. A horrifically cruel practice where the farmers carry out the very activity they are seeking to avoid. “Let’s cause a huge amount of pain to this piglet, so there’s no chance of it suffering a little bit of pain later on.” Yeah. That makes sense.
Teeth clipping is even more horrible. Again, without any anaesthetic, they use the same pliers to snip off the piglet’s teeth. Just pause for a moment and consider how horrible that sounds. And I’m totally serious. Just check this NSW government website if you don’t believe me. This is standard operating procedure for pig farms.
The teeth clipping is also supposedly to prevent sow’s teats from being bitten.
You might be thinking that these are necessary procedures because without them the pigs will injure each other. The thing is, these only happen in factory farms. It’s only in this environment where the pigs are so stressed as to resort to negative behaviours like biting each other.
Tail docking and teeth clipping aren’t done in free range and natural pig farms because they don’t need to. Pigs aren’t naturally violent towards each other. They’re social animals.
There’s really no justification for tail docking and teeth clipping. All that is needed to avoid ‘pig vices’ is a better environment for the pigs. Why not solve the overarching problem instead of just adding to it by mutilating the poor animals?
It’s just another reason to choose free range over factory farmed.
Did you know that mother sows naturally sing to their piglets while they are suckling? Pigs, like us, have strong maternal instincts.
When a sow is kept in a farrowing crate, no such singing occurs. In fact, she cries out in pain as she is trapped, unable to stand up in a darkened room. There is no relief from this trauma, because after four weeks her piglets are taken away and she will be re-impregnated; forced to face the same ordeal over and over again. When she is unable to have any more piglets she will be sent off for slaughter.
Farrowing crates were originally designed to stop the mother from accidentally crushing her piglets as she moves around. Which, to be fair, is a terrible reality of pig farming. However the cruelty involved in keeping sows in farrowing crates necessitates finding an alternative.
The problem is that farrowing crates are ‘good enough’. They do the job and they don’t cost too much money. The pork industry must care more about money than ethics or else they’d have found a solution by now. Farrowing crates have been in use since the 1960s.
While the industry is phasing out sow stalls, there are no plans to do the same for farrowing crates, despite the fact that farrowing crates are smaller and more restrictive than sow stalls.
Other countries such as Sweden and Switzerland have already banned the farrowing crate, so why shouldn’t we do the same?
The piglets in that picture look pretty happy right? Why shouldn’t that happiness continue for their whole lives? There’s an argument that outdoor bred pork is more cruel than factory farmed. Pigs are intelligent animals with long term memories. After they’re taken and put into pens for the rest of their lives, they would remember what it used to be like. Horrible as it is, at least those born to those conditions would not know any other life. The ones that had that taste of freedom might be suffering even more.
Sow stall free and outdoor bred pork come from pigs that were kept indoors. The terms only describe the way that the mother sow lived, and say nothing of the life that the pig you are eating actually lived. In most cases these pigs were kept in factory farm conditions from the age of four weeks. And yet we pay a premium for this? This pork invariably costs more than factory farmed, but it’s almost the same product. This has to stop. Join me in boycotting these faux free range products.
If you care about animal rights and you want to be ethical, then buy real free range. Pigs deserve good lives. You’re already paying extra for outdoor bred so pay just that tiny bit more and put your money to good use.
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