Pigs deserve kindness, compassion and the freedom to live a good life. Pigs are some of the most intelligent animals on earth. They are curious, form tight knit family groups, and like all animals, have natural behavioural needs. Pigs love fresh air and sunlight. Outdoors, a mother pig will spend her day rooting around, searching for food, mud bathing and caring for her piglets.

Together, we have made history for mother pigs.  

In June this year, SAFE partnered with our friends at the New Zealand Animal Law Association to challenge the use of cruel farrowing crates in the High Court. This was the first time in New Zealand history that such a challenge had taken place.  On 13 November, the High Court ruled that the minimum standards and regulations for the use of farrowing crates are unlawful. Simply put – the High Court agrees that using farrowing crates to house mother pigs is a violation of the Animal Welfare Act.
We have won

Justice has been served

From the bottom of our hearts – thank you.
Your support has made this landmark legal success possible.
Learn more about our historical victory for mother pigs

Farrowing crates

About half of pig farms in New Zealand keep mother pigs in farrowing crates — a barbaric cage that prevents a mother pig from tending to her piglets.

When it comes time for her to give birth, a mother pig would naturally collect bedding material and begin to build a nest. However, at the end of her pregnancy, she is taken from group housing and confined to a farrowing crate, where she will give birth. With little to no straw available for bedding in the farrowing crate, she scrapes her nose over the bare floor in a futile attempt to build a nest for her piglets. Her movements are so restricted, she can only stand up and lie down — she can’t even turn around. Her inability to properly mother her piglets only adds further to her frustration and depression.

A mother pig is kept trapped from a few days before she gives birth up until as much as five weeks afterwards until her babies are taken away from her.

Before Parliament invited SAFE to present evidence on the 112,000 signature strong petition, the Government reissued the Pig Code of Welfare, without notice or consultation, allowing the continued use of farrowing crates. In response, SAFE teamed up with NZALA to take historic action and filed legal proceedings against the Government for allowing the continued use of farrowing crates. Farrowing crates breach New Zealand’s Animal Welfare Act as they do not allow pigs to express their natural behaviour.

Pig lives: Quick facts

Thanks to SAFE’s pubic campaign it is now illegal to use sow stalls. Sow stalls were used by farmers throughout the duration of a sow’s pregnancy. The mother pig would be impregnated and kept trapped, unable to turn around for weeks and weeks on end. She would only be moved to give birth trapped in a farrowing crate. Once her piglets were taken from her she’d be trapped in a sow stall as the cycle began again.

Some farmers still use mating stalls, where they keep sows for up to seven days in early pregnancy. The use of mating stalls is also a part of SAFE and NZALA’s legal challenge to the Government.

Young pigs need continual stimulation, social interaction and lots of open space. Despite this, most piglets in New Zealand are taken from their mothers and transferred to a ‘fattening pen.’ Shared with other piglets, each piglet can have less than a square metre of space. These pens deprive them of even their most basic needs: fresh air, sunlight and mud baths, which keep them cool.

The natural lifespan of a pig is between 10 and 15 years, but most piglets on farms are killed at only six months of age. Sows are kept alive for three to five years, and are repeatedly impregnated after each litter is taken away.

Some male pigs, or boars, are kept on pig farms for breeding or to encourage the sows to become ready to mate. They may be kept in small, barren individual pens. Although boar pens are larger than farrowing crates, male pigs are unable to express their natural behaviours like rooting for food, wallowing in mud, or creating a nest for sleeping.

Farmers can use any form of labelling they wish, provided it doesn’t mislead the average consumer. After a complaint from SAFE, it was ruled by the Commerce Commission that the NZPork label PigCareTM had the potential to mislead people. The label implied extra “care” was provided to the pigs when in reality the farms merely met the minimum standards of New Zealand law and mother pigs were confined for weeks on end.

Both the SPCA Blue Tick and Freedom Farms labels do not allow for the use of farrowing crates, mating stalls or fattening pens. This doesn’t necessarily mean that pigs get to spend their entire lives outdoors. Large barns with straw bedding are used to house hundreds of piglets for four to eight months until they are sent to slaughter. The piglets still have limited space available, and they can’t go outside. Due to the close proximity, the piglets may bite each other from the stress, and some farmers dock the newborn tails without anesthetic to try and mitigate this.

Pigs on free range farms certainly get more space, but they still suffer. Painful nose rings are sometimes used to prevent the pigs from rooting in the soil, denying them an important natural behaviour. They also have a short life – piglets are only raised to four to eight months old, and mother pigs and boars are only kept alive for a few years.

Learn more about why free range is not the best option.

Take action

Take a look at SAFE’s meat substitutes page and sign up to take the plant-based challenge.

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Help us continue helping animals in need

As a charity, SAFE is reliant on the support of caring people like you to carry out our valuable work. Every gift goes towards providing education, undertaking research and campaigning for the benefit of all animals. SAFE is a registered charity in New Zealand (CC 40428). Contributions of $5 or more are tax-deductible.