Piglets routinely have their needle teeth (eight small, tusk-shaped teeth: four on the top and four on the bottom) clipped or ground to remove the sharp ends that can cause damage to the sows’ teats and to prevent facial injuries to other piglets as they compete for access to teats.
In 2011, FAWC stated that they were told by the British pig industry that reduction of the sharp canine teeth by clipping or grinding shortly after birth is carried out on a high proportion of indoor-housed piglets and a smaller percentage of outdoor-housed piglets in the UK (30).
The majority of farmers in Britain use sharp clippers to cut the teeth to gum level, which will open the pulp cavity. This is carried out without anaesthesia or analgesia and involves handling stress (30). If performed by unskilled operators or with poor equipment, splintering of the tooth and damage to the gum can occur, with chronic pain and risk of infection (30) (65).
Viva! has documented the painful procedure and it was reported in the Daily Mail (29). Whilst it is carried out to minimise damage to the sows’ teats and the cheeks of other piglets in the litter, this damage is superficial. The reason that piglets injure their mothers’ teats is that the litter sizes have increased so much, from around five piglets to up to 12. Also because the sow cannot remove herself from the piglets if inside a crate. An obvious solution is to reverse the breeding process so that the litter size is reduced. This is said with irony, as this intensive industry will never do this – the solution is to not buy meat, of course.
Undercover filming by Viva! in 2011 revealed the truth of millions of piglets on British farms having their teeth clipped and tails docked without anaesthetic © Viva!