But where are all our pigs?

There is no doubt modern living has left us both desensitised and far removed from the realities of how our food comes to be. This could not be truer than in the case of pig farming in Australia. 90% of all pork products bought and eaten in Australia come from factory farms. Ninety percent can you believe that? I guess this explains why most, if not all of us have never seen pigs roaming freely on Australian farmland. Have you ever thought about that?  You see cows, you see sheep, you see goats, but where are all our pigs?

So when I was invited to join a series of community rallies to raise awareness about factory farming and why sow stalls need to be banned, I joined up. Pounding the pavement, I was soon to learn many of us have no idea how pigs being raised for food are forced to live.

Just the words ‘factory farmed‘ and ‘intensive piggeries‘ conjure up images of a cold production line, where one can only imagine that the welfare of these animals would be compromised. But there is more to this tale, as I was to discover.

‘Basically you’re asking a sow to live in an airline seat’
Temple Grandin


Factory farmed pigs see no sun, no sky… ever

To be frank and without any embellishment, the plight of our pigs is diabolical. Simply put, we as consumers are both driving and unwittingly supporting an industry fraught with cruelty. Cruelty no reasonable person would condone. Not if they knew and understood all the facts.  And that’s where I need to begin, with a quick synopsis of the facts. Take a look at this short video (don’t worry, the graphic content has been removed).

And then think for a moment: a living, breathing, feeling being with the cognitive capacity of a 3- year old child never ever in their entire lives seeing sunlight, never touching the earth, pregnant and weighing some 300kgs confined on a cold floor, unable to turn around, unable to socialise, unable to nest. Driven to insanity as every basic right is denied her. And this abuse continues with each and every pregnancy. All to get ‘more pork on our fork‘.

Hear me out… it is not whether you choose to, or not to eat pigs.  But rather if you will continue to support an industry (as it is now run) rife with abject cruelty that has largely gone unchallenged. Let me put it to you this way… I have never met anyone who condones animal cruelty, yet when I raise the subject of abuse and cruelty inflicted on animals raised for food, people start to shut down and switch off. You can still eat your meat people, but at the very least we owe our animals a decent life and a painless death… agreed?  But this requires us getting involved.
It wasn’t that long ago that our chickens were existing in similar harsh conditions. It is public awareness consumers’ choices and continued public pressure that has given them considerably better living conditions.  And I’m sure most of you would only buy free-range or organic, or both when it comes to your eggs and chicken meat.

5.5 million pigs are slaughtered in Australia for food each year
90% of them will have lived indoors their entire lives

Pigs are intelligent, social and display complex behaviours. In fact scientists have shown them to have the cognitive capacity of a three year-old child.  Try then to imagine yourself, your mother, your child, your dog attempting to cope in these totally unreasonable conditions:-

  • Newborn piglets are subjected to tail docking (which is illegal for dogs), their teeth clipped to their gum line (so as not to injure their Mother’s nipples), their ears notched (for identification) and castration all without pain relief.
  • Mother pigs (sows) are confined day and night for all, or part of each 16 week pregnancy, in small individual metal ‘sow stalls’, over concrete or metal mesh flooring where they can either stand or lie, but cannot turn around.  They are provided with no bedding whatsoever.
  • Unable to move freely, they never see the sun and never touch the earth.
  • Their total confinement, harsh conditions, lack of stimulation and inability to satisfy their basic instincts literally causes them to go insane. Bar biting (as you’ll see in the footage below) is a sign of mental collapse.
  • During the loading of the trucks for slaughter they see the outside world for the very first time.  Many pigs suffer lameness, and broken bones due to lack of exercise and sunshine. Individualized Veterinary care is too expensive, so they can travel for hours in severe pain. 

From birth to death pigs literally exist in one state of abuse or another

What I am asking myself is, who developed these methods so lacking in humanity and why are we supporting them?  The blame cannot rest solely with the farmers, afterall we are the ones driving the demand.  It cannot rest solely with the pork industry officials; they need to run a profitable business. It has to rest with you and me as consumers.  To me it is simple: either we are part of the problem, or we are part of the solution. We need to ask more questions and think before we buy.
Today Australians (per capita) eat 24.4 kgs of pig meat
(pork, ham, bacon, pancetta, prosciutto, salami, chorizo, mince, suckling pig)
three times more than the 6.7kgs
consumed annually by Australians in 1969
The bottomline is, sow stalls should be banned. If you need further proof, look abroad; based purely on welfare, sow stalls have been banned in Britain since 1999. 7 states in America followed suit, along with the 27 member nations of the E.U. and Tasmania will see Australia’s first ban take full effect by 2017. If Smithfield Foods the world’s largest pork producer, is committed to making sow stalls a practice of the past, so should we (warning: contains graphic images)

Otway Pork – Farming methods for the future  (warning: footage contains hope and shows just how all pigs being raised for food should live) http://www.otwaypork.com.au/cms/otway-story/


‘To make a difference, you need to do something different
Colleen Patrick-Goudreau 


Get involved: it’s easy, here’s how

Stay informed, join us on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Ethical-Eating/241069425945627

Make compassionate choices: Say no to factory farmed pork.  Next time you order procuitto on your pizza, buy a ham sandwich, go out for breakfast for a serve of crispy bacon ask if the pork is free-range, or organic, if it isn’t don’t buy it!

Support ethical producers: Buying organic requires pigs to be raised in a free-range manner. Buying free-range means pigs are born and raised with access to the outdoors. Read product labels, ask questions and please think before you buy.

Lobby: Write and keep writing to your local MP, our minister for Agriculture and our Prime Minister. Write to your favourite publications.  Demand an end to sow stalls in every state of Australia and now. Learn how to here: http://www.animalsaustralia.org/action/editor.php

Make some noise: Join a community protest, sign a petition, donate, share our pigs’ plight with others. Learn more here: http://www.savebabe.com/change.php

Sign this petitionhttp://www.avaaz.org/en/australia_end_animal_abuse_b/?cwYgsdb

Join celebrity campaigners: James Cromwell, Jackie O, Rebecca Gibney, Suzie Wilks and Darren Cordeux.  Learn more here: http://www.savebabe.com/james.php 

Boycott: Vote at the checkout.

Sources: material supplied by Paul Mahony, www.rspca.org.au, www.SaveBabe.com, PETA, Animals Australia, the book Ethical Eating by Angela Crocombe ISBN: 9780143008569, www.sustainabletable.org.au and smh.com.au article: Bite-size view of a nation 

Photos: Professional images by Kylie Grinham  http://www.kyliegrinham.com/