With corporate hog factories replacing traditional hog farms, pigs are being treated more as inanimate tools of production than as living, feeling animals. Pigs are sociable, playful, and emotional animals with high intelligence level.
Approximately 100 million pigs are raised and slaughtered in the U.S. every year. As babies, they are subjected to painful mutilations without anesthesia or pain relievers. The piglets' tails are cut off to minimize tail biting, an aberrant behavior which occurs when these highly intelligent animals are kept in deprived factory farm environments. In addition, notches are taken out of the piglets' ears for identification.
At 2 to 3 weeks of age, the piglets are taken away from their mothers, by which time, approximately 15% will have died. The surviving piglets are crowded into pens with metal bars and concrete floors. A headline from National Hog Farmer magazine advises, "Crowding Pigs Pays..." The pigs endure overcrowded confinement buildings for their entire lives -- until they reach a slaughter weight of 250 pounds at 6 months of age.
The air in hog factories is laden with dust, dander, and noxious gases which are produced by the animals' urine and feces. Studies of workers in swine confinement buildings have found 60 percent to have breathing problems, despite their spending only a few hours a day inside confinement buildings. For pigs, who live their entire lives in factory farm confinement, respiratory disease is rampant.
Modern hog factories are a fertile breeding ground for a wide variety of diseases. A Pork industry report explains: "Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome, or PRRS, was first reported in U.S. herds in 1987. It is now estimated to be in as many as 60 percent of U.S. herds...Swine arthritis has increased in economic importance with confinement rearing, partly because of damage related to flooring conditions and partly because of faster growth rates and lack of exercise... The incidence of salmonellosis has continued to increase. It is estimated that one-third to half of farms have some level of salmonellosis... Epidemic transmissible gastroenteritis, or TGE, is a dreaded disease because it's hard to keep out of herds, there's no effective treatment and it carries a devastating mortality rate in baby pigs. Nearly all pigs less than 10 days old die if infected... Forty to 70 percent of U.S. pigs show evidence of infection with bratislava (a type of Leptospirosis)... Tests indicate 80 percent to 85 percent of sows in major swine producing areas have been exposed to parvovirus."
Modern breeding sows are treated like piglet making machines. Living a continuous cycle of impregnation and birth, the sows each have more than 20 piglets per year. After being impregnated, the sows are confined in small pens or metal gestation crates which are just 2 feet wide. At the end of their 4 month pregnancy, they are transferred to farrowing crates to give birth. The sows barely have room to stand up and lie down, and many suffer from sores on their shoulders. They are denied straw bedding and forced to stand and lie on hard floors. When asked about this, a pork industry representative wrote, "...straw is very expensive and there certainly would not be a supply of straw in the country to supply all the farrowing pens in the U.S."
Numerous research studies conducted over the last 25 years have pointed to physical and psychological maladies experienced by sows in confinement. The unnatural flooring and lack of exercise causes obesity and crippling leg disorders, while the deprived environment results in neurotic coping behaviors such as bar biting, dog sitting, and "mourning."
After giving birth and nursing their young for two to three weeks, the piglets are taken away to be fattened, and the sow is reimpregnated. Hog factories strive to keep their sows '100 % active', as an article in Successful Farming explains, "Any sow that is not gestating, lactating or within seven days post weaning is non-active." When the sow is no longer deemed a productive breeder, she is sent to slaughter.
In addition to experiencing overcrowded housing, sows and pigs also experience crowding in transportation - despite the fact that this crowding causes suffering and deaths. As a hog industry expert writes, "Death losses during transport are too high -- amounting to more than $8 million per year. But it doesn't take a lot of imagination to figure out why we load as many hogs on a truck as we do. It's cheaper. So it becomes a moral issue. Is it right to overload a truck and save $.25 per head in the process, while the overcrowding contributes to the deaths of 80,000 hogs each year?"
Prior to being hung upside down by their back legs and bled to death at the slaughterhouse, pigs are supposed to be 'stunned' and rendered unconscious. However, 'stunning' is terribly imprecise, and this results in conscious animals hanging upside down, kicking and struggling, while a slaughterhouse worker tries to 'stick' them in the neck with a knife. If the worker is unsuccessful, the pig will be carried to the next station on the slaughterhouse assembly line, the scalding tank, where he/she will be boiled alive.
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