The U.S. raises some 100 million pigs for food each year, virtually all in factory farms. Industrial-scale pig farms are known for their intensive, inhospitable conditions.
- Pigs can live up to 15 years, but most of those raised on factory farms are slaughtered at just six months.
- Both male and female pigs are raised for food.
- Pigs are very intelligent—as smart as or smarter than most dogs! They are one of only a few species Americans consider suitable for both keeping as pets and raising for food.
At just two to three weeks old, piglets are removed from their mothers and placed in large, windowless sheds without fresh air, sunlight or outdoor access. Their pens are too small and crowded for adequate movement and exercise. Ammonia fumes rise to dangerous, uncomfortable levels due to the pigs’ waste.
Pigs tend to be extremely curious and mentally engaged, but their barren surroundings cause them extreme frustration. The tail-biting that sometimes results leads farms to cut off pigs’ tails without painkillers. Farms also castrate baby male pigs—without painkillers—because consumers don’t like the smell and taste of uncastrated males.
Every pig raised for pork was born to a mother sow. Most sows in the U.S. spend their reproductive lives confined to a gestation crate . These crates are barely bigger than the sow’s body and prohibit her from turning around. Sows are artificially inseminated and kept in their gestation stalls until a few days before birth, at which time they are moved to equally restrictive farrowing crates to give birth. They remain in there for two to three weeks, nursing their young, and then are placed back in their gestation crates and re-inseminated. This cycle continues for several years, until the sows are no longer as productive and are sent to slaughter.
Experience For Yourself: Virtual Gestation Crate
Use your computer mouse to navigate around the gestation crate and see what life looks like for a pregnant sow.