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Mothers in Crates
Her eyes tell a story of emotional and physical pain. She is an animal completely neglected by society.
Birth is magical - but not when it takes place in a cage like this, only inches bigger than the mother’s body. What should be beautiful and rewarding becomes horribly obscene. And yet, Britain still places 60 per cent of mother sows inside 'farrowing crates' to give birth, where they can barely move for five weeks at a time. Contrast this to the wild, where mother sows build nests from twigs and leaves, and can walk many kilometres to find a suitable site.
The natural age for pigs to stop drinking their mother's milk is 12 to 15 weeks, but on British farms piglets are weaned artificially at just 3 to 4 weeks old. This is often more than piglets’ immature digestive systems can cope with and can lead to scours – severe diarrhoea. As a result, piglets require medication and, in intensive conditions, end up on a daily regime of drugs, including antibiotics. Intensive antibiotic use in pig farms has led to the development of ‘superbugs’, which are antibiotic-resistant bacteria which threaten even human medicine supplies. Almost one-fifth of piglets do not survive until weaning.
About 80 per cent of British piglets suffer major types of mutilations, including ‘teeth clipping’ and ‘tail docking’ – both without pain relief. Viva! has exposed this horrifying process in the national press.
Teeth clipping can lead to teeth and gum damage, chronic pain and risk of infection. Tail docking (cutting off part of the tail) is carried out to try and prevent pigs biting each other, causing stress and intense pain. Tail-biting is directly caused by boredom, frustration and a lack of environmental enrichment. Wild pigs don't do it.
Mother pigs are killed at 4 years old for ‘low-grade’ meat. Their piglets’ lives are cut short at just 5 to 6 months old for pork, bacon, sausages and ham. Their natural lifespan is 12 to 15 years. Although the pig industry changes little – people can change. Almost all pigs are reared indoors for meat but the British consumer is increasingly refusing to buy it. Whilst in 2014 around 10 million pigs were slaughtered in the UK, Brits are eating less and less pig meat each year. There is still carnage, but the trend is firmly in the right direction.