Reality vs. expectations: Life on a Pig Farm

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By JeraldDossantos

When pigs are made to work as cogs in machines, the very characteristics that make them so intelligent and beautiful are taken away.

Cameron Harsh is the Farming Campaign Manager for Pigs at World Animal Protection USA.

Many people think of farms as large, open spaces where animals can roam freely and are cared for to ensure their health and happiness.

Reality is far worse for millions of farm animals and pigs on factory farms.

Let’s compare the expectations of life on a farm with the reality of a factory farm.

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Expectation: All day foraging for food

Yes, pigs will work for their food! Pigs are naturally hardworking and capable of solving complicated problems.

They are very fond of foraging for food using their powerful noses.

They are stimulated, and this activity is healthier for them to eat and digest food.

Reality: Fed in Minutes

Factory farms feed their pigs with pellets. This allows them to consume the entire daily ration in a matter of minutes.

A concrete floor is often used to feed them. There are no roots or exploration.

This is a completely inappropriate way to feed pigs. It’s also why they become stressed and bored.

Expectation: Comfortable group environment

Pigs are sensitive and emotional beings.

They are loyal to their families and will grieve the separation or loss of human family members.

Mother pigs living in open housing on high welfare farms can often be seen bonding with straw in the warmth of straw.

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These are the wonderful social traits that make pigs unique.

Reality: Taught with brutality

Factory farms can cause so much pain and cruelty to pigs.

Factory farms often perform painful procedures on their piglets, which is one of the most shocking practices.

Castration and tail docking are painful, traumatic procedures that often go without anesthetic.

These horrible, uncalled for practices are caused by the insufficient space on factory farms. This leads to increased stress, tension and fighting among pigs as they age.

  • Imagine being locked in a small, cramped cage full of people with no stimulation or freedom.
  • Let’s just say that things could get very messy quickly.
  • Expectation: Piglets are raised by their mother pigs
  • Mother pigs are very strong in their maternal instincts.

Their instincts are to watch their babies closely and establish a strong relationship with them when they’re born.

They often use suckle grunting as a way to tell when milk is available. This rhythmic grunting can change in speed to let the piglets know when milk will arrive, so they will behave accordingly.

Within 24 hours, newborn piglets have established their teats and will return to the teat every time they are fed.

At 36 hours, piglets begin to recognize their mothers voice and will start to gather at the milking station at the teat they choose.

This behavior prevents piglets also from going to the wrong milk mother.

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Reality: Separated with steel bars

Factory farms often confine pregnant mother pigs into small cages (gestation boxes) that they are unable to move.

For sensitive animals, this can cause extreme stress and discomfort as well as prolonged suffering.

Their suffering does not end when they have given birth.

The mother pigs are then placed in farrowing crates, which restrict their movement. They can also see their piglets but cannot reach them.

Expectation: Pigs roaming and playing freely

To stay happy and stimulated, pigs require lots of space and enrichment.

To keep their tails wagging, they need to have fun with rope, toys, and straw.

Reality: You are trapped in barren environments

Factory farms force pigs into cramped enclosures with hard floors that are difficult for them to rest on.

This is a common practice that pigs use to urinate on the same floors all day.

This unsanitary environment and lack of stimulation can lead to abnormal behavior and spread of many infections.

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Change the reality of pig farms

The factory farms mentioned above are home to millions of pigs.

Through close confinement and other barren environments, we are working to relieve the greatest suffering caused by the production system.