Photo of Pecan rescued from the meat industry.
Pigs are highly intelligent animals, with mental capabilities recorded as exceeding those of dogs and even small children. They are exceedingly curious, affectionate, playful, and social.
Despite their charismatic natures, around 100 million pigs are killed each year. Pigs are produced via commercial breeding of sows. Sows are artificially inseminated and 60 to 70% are kept in “gestation crates” for the duration of their pregnancy. These crates are built so that sows do not have room to turn around. All they can do is stand up and lie on their sides.
Sows are expected to have multiple litters every year for several years until they are slaughtered, so they must endure the horrors of the gestation crates for almost the entirety of their lives. Sows kept in the conditions often develop psychotic behaviors for lack of mental stimulation and will become unresponsive, or perform abnormal behaviors such as constantly chewing on the bars of their crate and rolling their tongues. Proponents of gestation crates claim that they are necessary to keep sows from fighting, however, giving sows adequate space would not only stop sows from fighting, but they would be far less likely to engage in self harm or abnormal behaviors.
Prior to birth, sows are moved to “farrowing crates” where they are still unable to even turn around. They simply lie on their sides within their filthy and unhealthy confines and allow yet another litter of babies which will soon be taken away from them, to nurse. Mother sows continue this cycle of depression and degradation for the entirety of their short lives, usually 3-5 years, until their production rates decline and they too are put to slaughter.
Piglets are separated from their mothers within a few weeks of birth and moved to large, industrial confines to be raised alongside thousands of other pigs. These environments are crowded and do not allow pigs to express any of their natural behaviors. As a result, pigs develop neurotic and even violent behaviors and psychological damage such as dejection or apathy to the extant that in some cases they will not move or even acknowledge another animal chewing off their tail.
Pigs are housed on slatted floors so that their waste gathers in mounds below them. These animals are at risk for respiratory disorders from ammonia exposure, leg injuries due to weight related arthritis or their feet getting stuck in slatted floors, open and infected sores, and various other diseases. Pigs are typically slaughtered at 6 months of age, though many will die before this as a result of these conditions. Some pigs who become sick on injured in these conditions, or are simply considered economically unfeasible because they are too small, may be killed by workers by being beaten with metal rods or by “thumping” in which their heads are slammed against the floor until death.
Piglets are mutilated in various ways. Their tails are cut off and teeth are trimmed to discourage stress behaviors such as biting the tails of other pigs. Ears are cut for identification. Male piglets are castrated because this produces a more preferable flavor of meat. All of these procedures are performed without an anesthetic.
At around 6 months old, when they have reached slaughter weight, pigs are confined in the back of trucks for transportation. As a result of often being forced to survive extreme weather conditions, many will die from heat exposure en route. Still others die of bodily trauma, as they remain packed together in a moving vehicle.
Pigs are required to be stunned prior to slaughter, usually by electrocution or bolt gun, however these procedures do not always succeed in rendering them unconscious. At the very end of their lives, the ones who have made it this far are shackled up by their feet. Some are still conscious and kicking as they have their throats slit and begin to bleed out. Some have even been seen to be still alive as they are dropped into scalding tanks before dismemberment.