understanding pig Farming
- In Australia over 95% of Australia' s pork products are produced by more than 1,500 factory farms.
- Only around 5% of the pork produced in Australia comes from free range pasture raised pigs.
- Approximately 5 million pigs are slaughtered each year in Australia for human consumption.
- Most of Australian' s 350,000 breeding sows, or mother pigs, are raised intensively in factory farms.
- Pork is not grown in sow stalls (gestation crates), rather it comes from much younger, smaller animals, but most pork is from pigs born to mothers who live a life of confinement.
- Intensively reared sows are kept inside sheds or in sow stalls, and then moved into farrowing crates to give birth.
- Intensively reared piglets have their teeth clipped, their tails cut off, and males are castrated, all with no pain relief.
- Products labelled 'Bred Free Range' or 'Outdoor Bred' are not free range - it means that the sows live and give birth outside, however the piglets (which become the pork products) are housed indoors and are not free range.
- To avoid supporting these intensive farming systems, make sure that the pork products you buy are free range.
- Click here to see how Humane Choice True Free Range Pigs are raised.
What are Sow Stalls?
- Sow stalls are highly restrictive small steel cages with concrete floors where she is unable to move freely. Her only options are to stand up or lie down.
- In Australia, sows are allowed to be kept permanently in sow stalls until 2017. After this date the time a sow spends in a stall will be limited to 6 weeks before each pregnancy. She will still be confined in a farrowing crate for a further 6 weeks to give birth, (twice a year).
- Breeding sows are kept in sow stalls for part, or sometimes all of their 16 week pregnancy. Some are enclosed in sow stalls for most of their adult lives.
- Sows are repeatedly impregnated before being slaughtered at around 2 years old when her productivity falls.
- Intensive producers argue that sow stalls increase economic efficiency compared to other systems, putting profit before animal welfare for the production of cheaper meat.
- Coles have been promoting their Sow Stall Free campaign, but this only applies to their own-brand pork products.
- Sow stalls were banned in Britain in 1999, and in Florida USA in 2002.
- Sow stalls are illegal in Sweden.
- New Zealand plan to ban sow stalls from 2015.
- Other countries have implemented a partial ban (Switzerland, The Netherlands and Finland).
- However, the use of farrowing crates is still allowed.
- In Australia, the Pork Industry has promised to phase out the use of sow stalls by 2017, however, new legislation allows the practice to continue indefinitely.
What are Farrowing Crates?
- ˜Farrowing' means giving birth - sows are moved into these crates to give birth to their piglets where they are kept confined until their young are weaned, at around 3 to 4 weeks of age.
- Farrowing crates are even more restrictive than sow stalls and industry believe they help prevent the mother from lying on her piglets.
- New legislation allows the sow to be kept in these crates for up to 6 weeks of each lactation.
- Sows produce an average of 2.2 litters each year, subjecting them to confinement in a farrowing crate for around 13 weeks each year.
- Currently nearly 70% of Australian sows spend between 1-4 weeks of each pregnancy confined, while 20% are confined for more than 6 weeks.
Special Investigation: Confessions of a Pig Farmer (Australian Women's Weekly, July 2013) Download PDF (4,825.6 kB)
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Photo: A sow with her piglets in a farrowing crate