The Soil Association Standards for Organic Food and Farming
The Soil Association organic standards assure welfare benefits exceeding standard industry practice. Pigs are kept in family groups; have access to outdoor fields (dependent on weather) with shade, wallows and shelter; direct access to the soil and growing green food; indoor housing is allowed in severe weather so long as plentiful straw bedding is given and access to an outdoor run. Piglets are weaned at eight weeks or later. The guidelines state that ‘if necessary, for the last few weeks pigs may be ‘finished’ in spacious open-sided barns on straw bedding. They must also have access to an outside dunging, rooting and exercise area. The length of time that they are inside must not exceed one fifth of their total lifetime. (137, 138).
The Soil Association has banned (137 - 139):
- Nose ringing
- Tail docking
- Farrowing crates
- Antibiotics, copper diet supplements or probiotics to promote growth
According to the Soil Association, about 1.5 per cent of UK pigs are organic (15).
The Soil Association spell out the reality of pig farming in the UK. They state that (15):
- 98 per cent of UK pigs are fattened (finished) in sheds. 93 per cent of growing pigs and 60 per cent of mother pigs in the UK are kept indoors
- Approximately 80 per cent of UK pigs have their tails cut off (bored and unhappy pigs shut up in sheds will bite the tails of the pigs they are confined with)
- Around 55 per cent of sows [60 per cent according to FAWC (16)] in the UK give birth while confined in crates, which they remain in until their litter is weaned. At least 35 per cent of pigs reared for meat in the UK are kept in barren systems without any straw bedding
- The largest existing pig factory in the UK has 1,100 breeding sows
- The average size of large-scale intensive pig farms in the UK is around 500–900 breeding sows. The average pig herd size for all farms in the UK is around 75 breeding sows
- Approximately 92 per cent of pigs are kept on 1,400 pig farms