Like the majority of
Australia’s pigs, most Tasmanian pigs are farmed intensively
in factory farms. Sows (mother pigs) live their lives in sheds standing
in rows of crates called sow stalls, with metal bars surrounding
them and concrete floors.
The code of practice
for the welfare of these animals suggests that a sow stall be 200
cm long and 60 cm wide, barely bigger than the sow herself. Sows
are unable to turn around, walk or stretch out. Many sow stalls
are even smaller than the recommended size. The pigs are denied
of all natural behaviour. Theirs is a life of suffering and complete
They are treated as
breeding machines and each sow's worth is gauged on how many piglets
she can produce a year and how quickly she can be made pregnant
again after each litter. Productivity and profit drives the pig
industry. It is culpable for horrendous suffering.
Sows suffer from lameness,
foot injuries, cuts and pressure sores, as well as weakened bones
and muscles due to lack of exercise. Due to a complete absence of
stimulation these intelligent and curious animals often resort to
repetitive behaviour such as bar biting due to frustration and boredom.
For many sows the only
time they will leave the sow stall is when heavily pregnant. They
are then moved to an even smaller space called a farrowing crate
which is 200cm long and 50cm wide.
The sow is crammed into
this crate to give birth and rear her piglets. Instinctively a sow
feels the urge to find materials and build a nest in which to give
birth. This natural instinct is in vain as all she is provided with
is a cold concrete or slat floor and, again, metal bars.
For the next 3 to 4
weeks, with her body surrounded by a metal frame, she suckles her
young. She can stand up or lie down but is completely restricted
from having any interaction with her young at all.
After 3 to 4 weeks her
piglets are taken away to be fattened and she is impregnated again.
She is then returned to the sow stall and the whole cycle of suffering
This cycle will continue
until her productivity drops and then she will see daylight often
for the first time in her life as she is trucked to the slaughter
Pigs are extremely intelligent,
sensitive and curious animals. They have been shown to be more intelligent
than dogs. Society would never allow dogs to be kept in these conditions
but because pigs are farm animals society turns a blind eye.
Humane farrowing pens
(below right) with nesting material, used in conjunction with a
free range paddock are a significant improvement on sow stalls.
describes a system in which the young are born in a free-rnage enclosure
and allowed to stay with their mother for around 8 weeks. They are
then separated from their mother and brought indoors to live out
the rest of their short lives in deprivaton.
Pigs have a range of
natural behaviours that they need to exhibit - nesting, digging
for roots, wallowing in mud, and the ability to interact with each
other. They also enjoy just eating green grass!
The real alternative
to sow stalls and farrowing crates is for humans not to eat the
flesh of pigs at all. This is the only true way to end the suffering
of farmed pigs.
Consumers alone have
the power to end the cruel confinement of pigs.
Sow stalls are banned
in many countries. Britain has completely banned the use of sow
stalls. The UK’s 500,000 sows are kept in more humane alternative
systems. The rest of the European Union has a ban taking effect
The government made a
commitment to end the use of sow stalls in Tasmania by 2013, but
the industry is resisting the move. Farrowing crates will still
be allowed though. Contact the Minister for Primary Industries and
say you support the move to stop us of sow stalls, and that you
want to see an end to the use of farrowing crates too.
One of the best forms
of community support to force unethical, intensive industries to
change, is how you spend your money. Falling profits instantly attract
attention! So growing community concern for the suffering and quality
of life for pigs, prior to becoming a product on the supermarket
shelf, will be the most effective tool to convince the industry
that change is urgent, relevant and necessary.
Far more important than
calling for changes to way pigs are kept before they are killed
to be eaten is to think about how their suffering can be avoided
altogether. Choose not to eat the flesh of pigs and you take the
immediate step of helping to end the cruelty. Take a look here
for more information.