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.
In New Zealand, over half of pig farms keep mother pigs in farrowing crates — a barbaric cage that prevents mother pigs from tending to their piglets. 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.
A mother pig in a farrowing crate cannot build a nest for her young, or even reach out and nuzzle her piglets, she is kept behind bars — like a prisoner. Unable to even turnaround, all she can do is stand up and lie down to feed them.
SAFE has been instrumental in exposing the plight of pigs on factory farms and is currently leading the charge to ban the use of farrowing crates — in 2018, we submitted the largest petition presented to Parliament in the previous five years. More than 110,000 compassionate people joined us to call on the Government for change.
In October 2018, the Government reissued the Pig Code of Welfare, without notice or consultation, allowing the continued use of farrowing crates.
We’ve already banned sow stalls (a small cage used for the duration of a sow’s pregnancy) in New Zealand, following a harrowing exposé on the industry practice of trapping pregnant pigs for weeks on end in sow stalls on TVNZ’s Sunday programme in 2009. The next year, the Government announced the phaseout of these barbaric cages.
In February 2019, SAFE and the New Zealand Animal Law Association (NZALA) took historic action by filing legal proceedings against the Government for allowing the continued use of farrowing crates in violation of the Animal Welfare Act 1999.
Sweden, Switzerland and Norway have all banned this cruel confinement of pigs. Together, we can create an Aotearoa where pigs are treated as individuals, and not products.
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 110,000 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.
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 a look at SAFE’s meat substitutes page and sign up to take the plant-based challenge.
Eating a plant-based diet is the most important thing you can do to help animals. It's a simple switch, but it makes a big difference. You'll feel great knowing that you are putting your values into action. Challenge yourself to give it a try. We bet you’ll find it tastier and easier than you ever imagined!
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