Pigs in UK farming: what are the facts?

In our new report, Who’s Telling Porkies, we examine supermarkets' pig welfare and import policies, and how much information they share with consumers on implementation within their supply chain.

Our report reveals that UK supermarkets are supplying meat from pigs that have had their tails and teeth painfully cut to prevent them from causing injury and biting each other in frustration when crammed together on factory farms.

The rankings of supermarkets published in the report is based on our global welfare framework for the Raise Pigs Right campaign, focusing on calls to end piglet mutilations. The three mutilations, tail cutting, teeth cutting and castration are very painful, cause a huge amount of unnecessary suffering and should not be routinely carried out. Routine tail cutting is banned in the UK, but a loophole means the cruel practice continues with over 70% of pigs having their tails cut each year. Supermarkets can change this through their policies and supporting the industry to improve welfare.

Who's Telling Porkies? (Report)
Who's Telling Porkies? (2020)

Happy pigs mean healthier pigs


Frequently asked questions

Piglet mutilations like tail cutting and teeth clipping have been shown to be prevalent in the farming industry. Often these are carried out when pigs are less than a week old, and without pain relief. These mutilations are done to stop unwanted damaging behaviours like biting, that occur when pigs are stressed and frustrated. While routine tail cutting is banned in the UK,a loophole means the cruel practice continues with over 70% of pigs having their tails cut each year.

Tail docking is used as a band aid for low welfare practices on pig farms. When pigs are stressed and frustrated, they can bite other pigs’ tails causing pain and injury. To try and avoid this behaviour, on many farms pigs routinely have their tails cut off when they are just a few days old. This mutilation is painful and traumatic for piglets, it doesn’t guarantee they won’t get bitten and enables pigs to be housed in sub-standard conditions. Improving welfare standards on farms like introducing manipulable enrichment that allows pigs to root and play and reducing the number of pigs in a pen can lower stress and boredom and help avoid tail biting.

Teeth clipping likewise is used to solve issues that arise as a result of poor animal welfare on farms. Sows (mother pigs) have been bred to have larger and larger litters, meaning they often give birth to more piglets than the number of teats they have. They are also often confined to cages, farrowing crates, meaning piglets fight for space to feed and mother pigs are unable to move away. This results in damage to mother pigs’ teats. To avoid this - instead of reducing litter sizes or allowing mother pigs free farrowing systems - piglets' teeth are clipped or ground down, a painful and stressful experience for the piglets.

World Animal Protection is working to create better lives for pigs, because all animals deserve a life worth living. Factory farming is the world’s biggest cause of animal suffering. Right now, more than 70 billion animals are farmed for food each year. There are about 1.4 billion pigs on the planet, and they are amongst the most intensively farmed animals. They suffer at every stage of their lives. This makes farming one of the most pressing welfare issues of the moment, and with more and more people around the world depending on meat in their diet we need to ensure that high welfare practices become routine in the industry.

In higher welfare farming, animals lead good lives on farms and experience humane transport and slaughter. Antibiotics are used responsibly, not overused to prop up low welfare practices. In higher welfare farming, animals can express natural behaviour and are less stressed, resulting in higher quality meat.
We have created animal welfare frameworks outlining unacceptable, acceptable and good welfare practice and shared them with industry. In our frameworks, cages, barren environments and mutilations are unacceptable.

World Animal Protection is calling on supermarkets to implement global improvements to their supply chains via welfare policies that end piglet mutilations, prevent early weaning, and allow pigs to perform their natural behaviours. This includes comfortable housing, with natural light, space and material to manipulate. We want to see systems where pigs can be pigs and live pain-free, move, play, root, explore, wallow, socialise and perform other natural behaviours.

To support our campaign and ensure that pigs are given the best possible life, we are urging people to head to www.worldanimalprotection.org.uk/supermarkets and email your supermarket today demanding they have a full pig welfare policy, import policy and regularly publish data for their full supply chain.