Our report ‘Farming pigs and future proofing for a crate-free era’ has found that farmers are moving away from caging mother pigs around the world and seeing benefits including fitter, healthier animals with better welfare.
Lindsay Duncan, World Animal Protection farming campaigns manager, “It is great to see the farming trend shifting towards cage free and we are calling on the UK government to follow suit and ban cages for mother pigs.”
Other benefits of cage free farming the report found include:
Some farmers noticed that mother pigs experienced fewer leg problems and illness
Some saw mother pigs showing improved natural mothering skills
Mother pigs often produced more milk, making the piglets healthier, happier and grow faster
As birthing is easier many also saw mother pigs with fewer post-birth infections, and less antibiotic use, which helps reduce the impact of pig farming on antimicrobial resistance
Farmers also noticed mother pigs responding better to their human carers and turning around to approach them for a ‘nice’ scratch behind the ears
Mother pigs suffering on UK farms
200,000 mother pigs are suffering in cages on UK farms, unable to interact normally with their piglets, teach their young how to socialise with other pigs and try/begin eating solid foods, build nests and make themselves comfortable.
Shoppers are concerned with 65% of those polled in the UK saying they would probably not, or definitely not, buy pork from supermarkets supplying pork from these systems.
Lindsay Duncan, World Animal Protection farming campaigns manager said, “Ending the cage age is not only better for farm animals it also helps farmers with mother pigs having fewer illnesses and producing healthier faster growing piglets. It is great to see the farming trend shifting towards cage free and we are calling on the UK government to follow suit and ban cages for mother pigs.”
Countries that have banned cages
Countries such as Sweden, Norway and Switzerland have banned cages for mother pigs. Germany has announced cages are to be restricted to 5 days after birth from 2035, Austria will restrict cages to the ‘critical period’ after birthing by 2033 and New Zealand are soon announcing new restrictions on cages to be in place by 2025.
These restrictions followed debates on the legality of cages in reference to animal welfare laws in each country. With strong laws protecting animals in the UK (Animal Welfare Act 2006) and now in Denmark (Animal Welfare Act 2021) – similar restrictions will be necessary to comply.
Cages designed to stop piglets getting crushed
Cages were introduced in the 1960s to restrict movement to stop piglets being crushed by mother pigs and are easy to clean and protect workers from protective animals. However, increasing scientific evidence shows that causes of piglet death are at a similar level when cages are used and when they are not.
In general, more piglets are born dead or die of starvation in cage systems and more are crushed in free systems. However, farms can reduce crushing with increasing experience of managing the system, selecting the right breed and using the best system.
We are calling for governments, around the world, to end the cage age and bring in cage free systems.