The Truth About Pig Factory Farming

Credit: PETA

Credit: PETA

Although it is not common knowledge, pigs are highly intelligent
creatures. They are affectionate, protective of their young, playful social animals and they suffer greatly from the factory farming system.  Studies show us that pigs have a long memory and have the ability to focus on specific tasks even better than some primates. Of course such knowledge would not be in the interest of the meat industry which would not wish people to know they are eating an intelligent being, not to imply of course that the cruelty carried out on farm animals and other animals who are regularly abused by the consensus of society is justified if an animal is less intelligent.

Before reading about the horrors of factory farming as they relate to pigs, do first read and consider the following. In the preface of his book ‘The Pig Who Sang to the Moon,’ wherein the author reveals the complex emotions of these much used and abused creatures, Jeffrey Masson tells us about a pig famous with children and local residents, who lived on the beach of a coastal town in New Zealand. Piglet, the name given to this remarkable animal, likes to go for a swim in the early hours of the morning when the sea is calm, and she enjoys having her tummy rubbed by children who sit by her side. She is known to be a kind sensitive and intelligent creature, clean, placid, friendly even towards strangers, her natural emotions are plainly obvious.

She is sensitive to music, particularly on the beach at night during a full moon, she particularly likes to hear the violin played. One night she made the sweetest sounds as though she was singing to the moon. Referring to piglet’s singing Jeffery Masson writes: It is another reason to believe that many animals – pigs foremost amongst them – may have access to feelings humans have not known. Perhaps if we listen carefully enough to the songs that piglet and her cousins sing at night to the moon, we may yet learn about emotions that could bring us to a new and utterly undreamed of delight.”

Treating these wonderful creatures with such cruelty, neglect and blatant abuse is denying them their full potential, and us the delight of really knowing these sensitive and clearly sentient beings.

Pigs are highly social animals and originally lived in woodlands, they built nests to care for their young and foraged for nuts and seeds.

Pigs are excellent mothers and communicate with their youngsters; shortly after being born piglets soon move to their mother’s head, touch noses, vocalise and then begin suckling. The mother and her piglets develop a strong bond, the mother remains constantly by their side for the whole of the first week. Mothers are known to “Sing” to their piglets, it is believed that she does this to let them know  that her milk is flowing.

In the wild pigs spend hours playing together and enjoy lying in the sun. Many people who understand pigs know them as sensitive, highly intelligent creatures, loyal and friendly and most certainly comparable to dogs. In recent years there was a report in the media about a farmer who gave up pig farming because he became too distressed when his pigs went to market as he developed a fondness for them, perhaps he realised just how intelligent, sociable, friendly and very like us they are. 

Contrary to popular belief pigs are clean animals and in natural circumstances they will avoid fouling their living space.  In factory farms pigs are forced to spend their miserable lives standing or lying in their own waste as you will see from the photograph further down. In the environment of the factory farm their need for company, to investigate their environment, play, root, forage and mother their young in the way nature intended are all denied them.

Another misconception of pigs as greedy animals also could not be further from the truth; unlike your cat or dog in natural circumstances pigs will not gorge themselves on food even if the supply is unlimited. Pigs it seems know when to stop eating and never dangerously overeat, which is something of course that many of us are not capable of doing.

Read more information concerning the sentience of pigs: Sentience in Farm Animals: Pigs

In the UK 9 million pigs are raised, intensively, that is factory farmed, and each year in the USA about 100 million pigs are similarly raised and slaughtered annually. Half of breeding sows are kept indoors never seeing the light of day – the only time she will do so is when she is herded into a truck to transport her to the slaughter house – confined in barred cages so small they can hardly turn round or lie down comfortably as you can see from the photos of pregnant pigs confined in gestation crates which appears further down.  Sometimes pigs are tethered by a strong and heavy chain attached to their neck and body. Damage to the unfortunate creatures from such methods of confinement is significant and results in lameness, leg, back and hip problems and sores from the rubbing of the tether and against the cramped cages.

Like sheep and other farm animals painful and distressing mutilation occurs: 75 per cent of all piglets have their teeth crushed and tails cut off without anaesthetics or pain relievers. Like tiny lambs the tails of piglets are docked, cut off to minimize tail biting. More about this later. Aberrant behaviours such as tail biting do not occur in their natural environment and is the result of these highly intelligent creatures being kept in close confinement, deprived of space to move and mental stimulation. Pigs go insane as a result of a lack of mental stimulation, as do all intelligent animals in similar circumstances including ourselves. Notches are taken out of pigs ears for the purposes of identification, again this along with all of the above mutilations takes place without the use of anaesthetics and painkillers.

In factory farms each sow, female pig, is subjected to a continuous cycle of impregnation, she is impregnated for the first time when she is only six to eight months old, mostly by artificial insemination. In the wild she will give birth to four or five piglets; in the environment of the factory farm as a result of selective breeding she will have as many as ten or more babies each pregnancy and she will have more than 20 piglets each year. She is for all intents and purposes a breeding machine, the reproduction of her kind being her sole function until she is too old or too exhausted from the round of continuous pregnancies to do so, after which she is killed at about 3 or 4 years old. By this time she will be without exception lame and in pain.

Look at the photo below, here is where she will exist during much of her pregnancy, I cannot use the word live for this is no life for a sociable, intelligent clean creature as the pig or indeed any animal. This hideous contraption is a gestation crate, a small pen approximately two feet wide. The crates which are only a few inches wider and longer than the sow herself are barren, there is little if any straw of course, straw being too expensive, the use of which would effect profit margins. Confined here she will not be able to turn round or even comfortably lie down. It is here she will give birth. 


After four months of pregnancy, about a week before she is due to give birth she will be transferred to a farrowing crate, one of the most barbaric and cruel tools of the factory farming industry, here she will be confined for about a month after  giving birth. As you can see from the photograph below it is an equally cramped confined space, again there is no room to turn round or lie down comfortably, she will develop sores as a consequence on her knees and shoulders. 

Farrowing-3These contraptions have been designed to restrict the mother’s movements to prevent her from moving forwards or backwards, the poor creature cannot move at all. Furthermore, she is not only deprived of any physical comfort but she has no mental stimulation whatsoever and can do nothing except stare at the wall in front of her. Her newborn offspring  are forced to suckle their mother from a small area known as a “creep”, adjacent to but separate from their mother. This is supposed to prevent the sow from accidentally crushing her piglets but in reality it is more to do with economy of space, the more pigs occupying less space the more profit of course. However in their natural environment piglets suffer no more deaths in such a manner than they do in farrowing crates.

Although in the wild the weaning process takes two or three months, in the environment of the factory farm after being born Piglets remain with their mother for only two or three weeks before they are taken away to be fattened, after which time the sow is re-impregnated again.  This enforced separation results in severe stress for both the mother and her offspring. You may be shocked, as indeed was I, to learn that the stress which results from separation increases the speed with which the sow comes into season and thus she becomes capable of having another litter much sooner than nature intended. After the enforced removal of her piglets she along with other sows is returned to her small pen, in a matter of days she will once again be re-impregnated and the miserable cycle begins again. Because she has suffered so much with health problems common to breeding sows in factory farms, including leg deformities and lameness, she can no longer position her self to copulate in the normal manner in order to mate, the reason for artificial insemination.

Finally when the poor exhausted animal, now referred to as “spent” can no longer reproduce she is of course slaughtered along with stud boars. To be viable and yield the maximum profit she must be what is referred to as 100 percent active. This means she must be gestating, lactating or within seven days post weaning.


Photo credit: PETA

After about six weeks the piglets are moved from the farrowing crates, taken from their mothers into the close confinement of concrete pens, or metal cages with perforated concrete or slatted metal floors as you can see from the photo below. After four to seven months, pigs not selected for breeding purposes are sent for slaughter.

Again cramped in these pens there is no stimulation, the result is boredom, depression and aggression. Moreover these newly-weaned animals, deprived of their mother’s teats often frantically try to suckle their siblings or other young piglets or indulge in tail biting. In an attempt to “remedy” this aberrant behaviour borne of these stressful and unnatural circumstances which have been forced upon them, the lower part of the tail is amputated , this is called tail docking which was explained earlier and which is a painful mutilation carried out without anaesthetic or pain killers. In addition many piglets also have their pointed side-teeth clipped down to the gum in the first few days of life. This is to to prevent them from wounding each other or their mother during the suckling period, the mutilation mentioned earlier, teeth grinding, is also carried out. The industry ignores the real problem – namely, the piglets are being forced to compete for teats in an unyielding unnatural metal and stone environment with an unnaturally large number of siblings.

The young piglets will be made to grow faster than nature intended on a diet rich in protein, the unfortunate creatures are forced fed with antibiotics and growth promoting hormones, they become so obese to such a degree that they can barely support their own weight and as a consequence they suffer with painful joints and muscles, caused not only as a result of being too heavy but by standing on concrete floors. Additionally, they suffer from heart and respiratory problems. As you can well imagine, infections run rampant in the filthy, hot, and overcrowded conditions in which these animals are confined; they are fed antibiotics to simply keep them alive.

Due to the shocking conditions in which they are kept, 15 percent of these piglets will have died by the time they are two or three weeks old from disease and lack of care. The atmosphere in pig factory farms is extremely unpleasant and unhealthy, it is hot, laden with dust, dander, (dander is material shed from the body of various animals, similar to dandruff, It may contain scales of dried skin and hair, or feathers. It is a frequent cause of allergy in humans and no doubt pigs as these animals are amazingly like us) and noxious gases as the result of defecation. It is rank with the stench of urine and faeces which builds up inside these closed overcrowded places, as a result respiratory disease is rampant. Other serious diseases caused by the conditions of factory farming are common, particularly amongst piglets including pneumonia and meningitis for which the unfortunate animal receives no treatment. 

The survivors will spend what remains of their short wretched lives in these pens standing on concrete floors. Here they remain like so much factory stock in dark warehouses, with no comfort of any kind, deprived of the light and warmth of the sun, the natural  companionship of their fellows and mental stimulation, until they are between 4 and 7 months old, at which time they make the terrifying journey to the slaughter house.

Also shocking and blatant animal abuse is carried out in some factory farms, deliberate cruelty as you can see in this video taken in a factory farm in Iowa:

Petra Film Undercover on an Iowa Pig Farm.

PETA TV: Hormel Supplier Caught Abusing Mother Pigs and Piglets 

Please do watch this film if you have not already done so on the introduction page. Shocking imagines that will bring tears to your eyes, provoke anger and hopefully help you to make the decision to stop eating meat if you have not already done so.

As you see pigs are abused and seriously mistreated, including being beaten with iron rods which are also forced up their anus.

As soon as I realized that I didn’t need meat to survive or to be in good health, I began to see how forlorn it all is.  If only we had a different mentality about the drama of the cowboy and the range and all the rest of it.  It’s a very romantic notion, an entrenched part of American culture, but I’ve seen, for example, pigs waiting to be slaughtered, and their hysteria and panic was something I shall never forget. 

Cloris Leachman

At the slaughter house the suffering continues and, indeed make no mistake, be under no illusion: pigs and other creatures know they are about to die. Although pigs like chickens and other farm animals are stunned before slaughter, the stunning is not always effective and the animal is conscious as his or her throat is slit.  According to VIVA:

“A three-year study of 29 slaughterhouses in the UK has revealed that stunning is often ineffective. In one study, as many as 35 per cent of the pigs were found to have been stunned in the wrong position, and an average of 30 seconds elapsed between stunning and sticking – enough time for the animal to regain consciousness.”

Mind you, you need to be aware that although the lesser of two evils the method of stunning is extremely painful in itself as pigs are first given a powerful electric shock to their head, which is supposed to make them insensible to pain and render them unconscious before their throats are stabbed with a knife, a process known as ‘sticking’.

The poor creature is than hung upside down by the back legs and bled to death, but he or she may not have been effectively rendered unconscious, and often fully conscious pigs are struggling as a slaughterhouse worker attempts to kill them by stabbing them in the neck with a knife, an horrific method which itself maybe ineffective, and I might remind you in such instances that this is a dreadfully cruel, protracted  death. If this botched up slaughter attempt has failed to kill the poor frightened creature, the pig will be carried to the next stage of the cruel inhumane  process, the scalding tank, where he or she will be boiled alive whilst fully conscious. The whole process does not bear thinking about and bring shudders of horror to the hearts of any sensitive person. It is torture unimaginable.

As already mentioned, and here I do not apologise for the repetition of the shocking truth, each year on average a sow produces about 22 piglets having been forcibly impregnated, she will spend two thirds of her life pregnant. Can you not imagine how exhausted this poor creature must be. After her “useful”  breeding time is over she is slaughtered to make processed foods such as sausages and pork pies. This intelligent and sensitive creature is herded into a truck and transported, often for miles in extremes of temperatures. Her unfortunate piglets are slaughtered after only four to seven months to provide pork chops, bacon, sausages and other meat products.  Remember: The natural life span of a pig is ten to fifteen years.

The damage to these intelligent sensitive creatures can not be underestimated and again warrants a second mention, pigs confined in the conditions above suffer both physically and mentally. The hard concrete floor and lack of exercise results in obesity and in painful and crippling leg disorders and open sores. These conditions accompanied by lack of mental stimulation cause pigs to engage in neurotic behaviours such as respective bar biting and going though the motions of chewing.

In addition to the horrors of factory farming, pigs may be used by students, trainee surgeons, to practice on.

During these sessions these poor animals are stabbed “in various organs of the abdomen and chest, including the bowel, bladder, kidney, diaphragm, liver, spleen and heart. Each month, five pigs undergo 14 different mutilations. After prolonged confinement, they either die during the drills or are destroyed at the end of the session.”

Alternative methods are available without recourse to injure any animals: “such as virtual reality simulators, hands-on physician mentoring, cadavers mechanically equipped to pump artificial blood through vessels and emulate live human surgery, etc”

The above is an extraction form easy vegans website: » Blog Archive » Kinship Circle: ACT/ Stabbing Pigs To Teach Hum

The above is with reference to one particular hospital in the USA where in addition  mice, dogs, guinea pigs, rabbits and sheep are kept for use in other experiments. However similar practice may well occur elsewhere. Please note many of the links in the above reference no longer work and the outcome of the campaign is unknown

Also a similar campaign concerning The University of Michigan:

Take action by Supporting PETA’S e-mail campaign by clicking the link below:

I abhor vivisection with my whole soul. All the scientific discoveries stained with innocent blood I count as of no consequence.

Mahatma Gandhi

Please read this account, it is horrifying, shocking; but if you eat meat you should know the extent of the suffering involved for these sentient, sensitive and intelligent creatures:

“What’s that noise?” asked John, the high-screech pitch too unimaginable to ignore. We were on the offside of a slaughter plant wall. He cupped his hands over his ears to give himself an impossible reprieve.

Pigs!” I yelled back.

I could tell he didn’t understand. I hadn’t understood the first time I’d heard them, either.

We climbed on lidded barrels to peer over the wall: in every direction, as far as the eye could see, there were pigs: pigs on top of pigs, crammed into cross-fenced pens by the thousands, like dead sardines in tin cans. The odor they emitted was almost unbearable, of feces and urine; from the dark-walled interior building, the pungent stench of blood invaded our nostrils.

Some pigs were sitting on others, much the way a human might sit on a living room sofa; others seemed dazed. They sat in liquefied faeces, mixed at their feet by their constant struggle to get comfortable, to vainly escape, from the urine they peed into the pens, from fear and disorientation.

And the pigs were screaming—bloody murder…

…“In a moment,” I explained, “they’ll kill a pig.” I pointed to where the warehouse opened like the hull of a giant ship. “When the pig screams, it will send a shock wave through the pigs out here; they’ll all scream.”
Right on cue, from the depth of the building’s interior, a screaming pig could be heard and I could see the animal, the way I once had: pushed onto a moving conveyor belt that would take it to the stunning tongs. Once there, the plant man would grab the pig’s head in the giant vice the way one would lift lettuce from a salad bowl. A painful current of electricity would surge through the animal’s body, stunning it just enough — or so it is hoped — to render it unconscious before the pig reaches the throat-cutting blade..”

Extract from In the Leaving by Laura Moretti

To finish reading the rest of this story
The Animals Voice: Laura Moretti   Found at    The Animals Voice: Home

How long can we mistreat such animals, whether intelligent, ingenious, sociable, compassionate, pigs like all animals feel pain and experience fear. I consider pigs are sentient and I rather think that most reasonable thinking people do also. The problem is many of us remain in ignorance concerning their shocking mistreatment. I hope that what I have said and some of the information I have gathered will make you seriously consider taking at least one step to stop once and for all this hideous cruelty to pigs and other farm animals by not eating meat or consuming other animal products.

For other action you can take and more information please visit the websites below

References and Links :

End Factory Farming       From the Vegetarian’s International Voice for Animals VIVA

The worst abuses in factory farming#pigs
Contains shocking video of the castration and ear tagging of a piglet

Pigs Like These From Vegan soap Box

The Animals Voice: Home


Banner photograph by Trish’s Photo stream:
Three Little Pigs on Flickr – Photo Sharing!
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