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When we think of pigs, what generally comes to mind for most people are cute happy chubby pink pigs frolicking happily in fields full of daisies. People love pigs, they are fascinated by them and they are usually the farmed animal that most people connect with first when realising all of these animals are equally deserving of a wonderful life. You always hear people exclaim, “I LOVE PIGS!”, and yet, this pre-conceived idea of how pigs live does not reflect the reality for pigs whose only reason for existing is to be ‘farmed’ and then killed for human consumption.

In Australia, around 5.5 million pigs are bred to be slaughtered, with approximately 300,000 sows used as breeding machines to produce this unbelievable number of pigs. From the beginning to the end of the pig farming system, pigs suffer horrendously, whether they are used as female and male breeding machines, or the pigs who end up on peoples’ plates when they are still so young, just 5 to 6 months old.


Mothers and babies

In piggeries, any ability to express normal behaviours inherent to being a pig is severely restricted. The majority of pigs are raised in intensive farming systems (95%[i]), and usually housed in conventional sheds and occasionally ‘eco sheds’. The sows are confined to farrowing crates, tiny cages measuring just 2m x 50cms, for up to 6 weeks to give birth and suckle their babies. These cages are barren, consisting of concrete slabs and metal grid floors to allow the waste to drop or be flushed below to a tunnel system underneath which is commonly riddled with maggots and insects. To say the environment sows have to give birth and live in is barren, unsanitary and cruel is an understatement and to see the conditions they are forced to live in is nothing but sickening and shocking. The pig industry says the cages mother pigs are kept in to give birth are for the protection of her newborn piglets to prevent her from lying on them and killing them accidentally. However, it is a common occurrence for piglets to be overlain by their mothers for a number of reasons, the main one due to inadequate or at times no heating provided and the piglet seeking out warmth from their mother by huddling next to her. The slippery flooring, extreme confinement and poor body condition of the sows means that they have difficulty controlling their movements, and the use of cages really allows for minimal effort made by the workers and is easier to control a mother who is naturally protective of her babies.

A sow confined to a farrowing crate in an Australian piggery
Credit: Melbourne Pig Save

Weaner and grower pigs, and pregnant sows waiting to be transferred to farrowing crates, are kept in larger pens called group housing. These are barren concrete pens where it is common for pigs to fight with one another and express cannibalistic behaviour due to the extreme confinement. Quieter pigs are often bullied and find it harder to get to food, and cannibalism occurs when they chew on each others’ tails in order to find something, anything to relieve their mind-numbing boredom. The hard surfaces covered in their urine and faeces is all they have to lie on for ‘bedding’, and drainage is often inadequate leading to a build-up of their waste. It is common to see pigs wallowing in their own filth.

Pigs, and particularly sows due to their ongoing confinement, can develop stereotypic behaviour as a result of being driven mad by the severe conditions. These behaviours can involve sham chewing (chewing nothing), biting of the metal bars, floor licking and teeth grinding.

A Day in the Life of a Sow
Blantyre Farms. Golden Grove Piggery, Young, NSW
Credit: Aussie Farms


Educational video – Forced ejaculation of a boar

The boars are kept in small numbers in breeder farms and used as an ‘enticement’ for female pigs in order to stimulate them in readiness for artificially insemination by the workers, which is done by shoving a long plastic tube into her vagina. It is very rare that boars actually physically mate with females, and as such, another business has been created that provides semen to piggeries for use in artificial insemination. Boars are masturbated by humans in order to make them ejaculate so the semen can be collected for this purpose. These disgusting practices are excused by the industry as animal husbandry, but outside of piggeries are considered perverse and criminal acts.

Boar semen facility -QLD
Credit: Animal Liberation & Animal Liberation QLD


Mutilations that cause extreme pain are carried out on young piglets not even a week old, such as cutting off their tails which is done to avoid tail biting due to extreme boredom, cutting pieces out of their ears for identification purposes, cutting the ends of their teeth off to avoid lacerating each other and their mother when suckling, and castration.  All of these procedures are carried out without any anaesthetic and one can imagine how painful this would be for a newborn piglet experiencing them. Usually crude and unhygienic equipment is used to perform these cruel procedures and the piglets’ open wounds are vulnerable to infection due to the exposure of the wounds in unhygienic conditions.

Piglet with chunks removed from his ear and tail cut off at an Australian piggery.
Credit: Melbourne Pig Save


Illness is rife in piggeries and it’s a constant battle to keep outbreaks of disease at bay at all times. Pigs are confined to extremely small pens to live in groups, or in farrowing crates when giving birth, or as a boar living in the smallest of spaces; they are forced to live in their own filth and so it is no surprise it is such a difficult task to keep disease under control. Bacteria such as e-coli are permanently present in piggeries and as such, antibiotics must be used as a prophylactic or to treat infections, from the day they are born to the day they die.

Sows forced to live in such restrictive pens can’t exercise and so lay down for most of the day, suffering from painful pressure sores, lameness and muscle atrophy.

A sow with pressure sores at Springview Piggery, Gooloongong, NSW
Source: Aussie Farms

It is common to see pigs with hernias that are left untreated, and male and female pigs can develop rectal prolapses, and sows also vaginal prolapses. A prolapse, where a pig’s inside structures such as the uterus and rectum fall out of their normal position and can be seen protruding outside of the body are common, particularly in sows as a result of being used as breeding machines, causing weakness of their internal muscles. Lack of sunlight also contributes to ill health and weak bodies.

A sow with a prolapse in a piggery in Victoria, Australia
Credit: Melbourne Pig Save


Eventually, all pigs will be slaughtered despite their purpose. They will be killed as a ‘bacon pig’ at just 5 to 6 months of age, or as a suckling piglet ‘delicacy’ aged around just 4 to 6 weeks, or as a sow no longer of economic value to the piggery when the numbers in her litter begin to decline or she suffers illness from the extreme confinement and insanitary conditions. They are trucked to the slaughterhouse to suffer an excruciating death using the common method of being gassed in a gas chamber before being brutally killed by having their throats cut.

Consumers don’t turn their minds to the actual process of raising animals and then killing them so their body parts can end up as ‘products’ on supermarket shelves. They block from their minds and do not consider the actual scenario the animals face, one full of fear, terror, confusion, and brutality followed by death and in many cases, a slow and excruciating one. To leverage off consumer lack of willingness to face the actual truth, businesses who exploit and profit from animals market their products as ‘humane’ or of better ‘welfare’ standards for the animals. Words such as ‘free range’, ‘organic’, ‘sow stall free’, ‘hormone free’, ‘free to roam’, are labelled on these ‘products’, completely meaningless to someone who does not want to die and has an interest in living just as much as we humans do.

Large Black Pigs – Victoria Australia
The farm website boasts about their trip to the gas chamber being a kind one on a bed of soft straw.

But even when these words are used to create an illusion that the animals somehow have lived a better life before being slaughtered, the reality is these are just words and many investigations have found animals to be wallowing in their own filth, suffering horrific illness and kept in cruel conditions.

Investigations have also uncovered the horrific way pigs are killed at the slaughterhouse by being forced into gas chambers and the struggle against excruciating suffocation.

RSPCA approved gas chamber stunning at Diamond Valley Pork – Victoria Australia
Pigs from sheds and outdoor systems including the black pigs above are sent here
Credit: Aussie Farms

Footage released by Aussie Farms and Animal Liberation have shown pigs still conscious when tossed into the scalding tank, which is used to remove their body hairs. To believe animals are killed ‘humanely’ is sheer nonsense, the animals suffer, that is guaranteed.

Electrical stunning and scalding tank at Strath Meats, South Australia
Credit: Animal Liberation & Aussie Farms

There is no effective monitoring of these farms and slaughterhouses and they can literally get away with fooling the public and horrific cruelty to animals.

Of course, the pig industry says it is doing everything right by the pigs, that these things are ‘best practice’, and that they are caring for the pigs’ wellbeing somehow, in circumstances that squeeze every cent out of them. As, when it comes down to it, pigs are reduced to commodities and given the absolute minimum to ‘sustain’ them. The industry justifies the cruel housing conditions, the mutilations and the cages, saying it is for their good.  What they need to add is that it is for their good ‘when mass producing animals to maximise profits at the least cost and effort, whilst ignoring the fact they are sentient intelligent beings’.

The way pigs are forced to live and the treatment they endure would cause an outrage were they dogs or cats. What people don’t recognise is that pigs feel every emotion that these ‘pets’ do. To disregard their feelings, their worth, their own interest in living and being free from pain and suffering, is truly a blight on the human race. How did we get to the point of segmenting animals into categories, fit for a pet or as ‘food’ and consider that ok? It is time people start to critically look at their views and align themselves with their values. We are sure the majority would consider it cruel and repulsive to incarcerate, torture and kill an animal with their own hands, so why would they think it’s ok to pay someone else to do it?

What has been mentioned here only scrapes the surface of the pig farming industry practices and the suffering of pigs. There is so much information available, all one has to do is a google search to see how problematic and cruel it is. Please continue your research and educate yourself, you will be shocked to discover the truth.

Whilst this madness continues, animal activists exist to bring to light the cruelty that is inherent when using animals, for their flesh, their skin, as entertainment or to experiment on. The impacts of animal agriculture is not just the obvious cruelty on the animals, but is also detrimental to the environment (The Environmental Destruction of Eating Animals), human health (The Vegan Diet & Physical Health) and humanity (Is Speciesism Blocking Our Mental Health?)

Author: Karina Leung
Co-Founder of Melbourne Pig Save


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