The heartbreaking life of a factory-farmed mother pig

Posted on 03 May 2019 by

Guest Blogger

in the Animals in farming blog

The story of mother pigs in factory farming is a sad one. Tens of millions of pigs, in many countries around the world, spend their entire adult lives in a small cage.

Cogs in a machine 

Selectively bred to produce as many piglets as possible, a mother pig’s adult life begins when she is first impregnated. This is sometimes done when the pig is as young as eight months.   

Far from natural breeding, she is forced into a small cage for this process. She will be moved from cage to cage for the rest of her life. At a factory farm, she is just a breeding ‘machine’

Image: pregnant mother pigs live in cramped cages (gestation crates) where they can barely move, with no enrichment. Photo from a farm in Latin America.

Alone in a sea of cages 

Unable to turn around, she is caged and lined up with hundreds of sows (mother pigs) in an enormous shed. Bars separate her from other pigs so she can’t form friends, or seek comfort or security in groups. She can’t escape; she can’t retreat, ever.  

Each cage is no more than two metres long and less than a metre wide. It’s only slightly bigger than her own body and no bigger than a household fridge.

Image: Pregnant mother pig in a cage (gestation crate), not able to turn around. Photo from a farm in Latin America.

Uncomfortable and in pain 

This is a far cry from the comfortable grass bed she would seek in nature. Pigs like to be clean, but a mother pig on a factory farm has to lie in her own excrement all day. She is cramped and develops shoulder sores from rubbing against the steel bars. 

The concrete floor is hard, and she is confined there day in, day out. In frustration, she bites the bars of the steel cage that surrounds her. 

In these cages, mother pigs live their whole lives unable to express natural behaviours, forage, or socialise with other pigs. They are kept alone in cages. They experience lameness, intense stress, self-inflicted injury and depression. This is no life for a pig.

Image: some frustrated mother pigs produce white foam around the mouth as signal of false chewing or bar chewing generated by the frustration of natural behaviour and restricted diets. Photo from a farm in Latin America.

Giving birth in a cage 

Finally, after she has endured this pregnancy in a prison, she is moved to yet another cage in preparation for giving birth. Her natural instinct is to build a nest, but she is unable to.  

She’s moved to a ‘birthing’ cage, where there’s nothing but bars and concrete again.  

She’s highly stressed at the very moment she needs to relax. This adds even more pain and suffering to the birth. When her piglets arrive, the steel bars can block her from reaching them.  She is unable to form a normal mother-piglet bond.

Image: a mother pig (sow) feeds her piglets on a farm in China.

Babies snatched too soon 

When her babies are just three weeks old, they are forcibly weaned and taken away from her. She is returned to another cage to be made pregnant again, and the painful cycle repeats once more.  

She’ll endure multiple pregnancies throughout her miserable life. This is until her body starts to break down and she is no longer of any use to the factory farming industry.  

Image: piglets in internsive farming in Colombia.

Help end this horror 

Supermarkets have the power to stop this cruelty. We want Tesco Lotus stores in Thailand to stop selling pork sourced from farms that use sow stalls.

Send an email to the Chief Executive of Tesco PLC asking them to introduce a global pig welfare policy, banning the sale of pork from farms with sow stalls, no matter where in the world their stores are located.

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