Breaking Investigation: Horrific Conditions Drive Mother Pigs Mad

Breaking Investigation: Horrific Conditions Drive Mother Pigs Mad

A new Mercy For Animals investigation exposes the heartbreaking conditions pregnant pigs endure at factory farms—the type of cruelty the meat industry is fighting before the U.S. Supreme Court to keep.

Our brave investigator documented the disturbing reality of life for pigs trapped inside a U.S. farm, including about 2,500 female pigs confined to cramped metal cages. While the findings are difficult to watch, they are important to see.

The footage reveals rows and rows of pregnant pigs confined to gestation crates—each crate barely larger than a pig’s body—unable to lie down comfortably or even turn around. Deprived of mental stimulation, these pigs are driven mad by boredom and stress. These captive animals are unable to build nests, forage for food, or cool off in the mud, and they develop coping mechanisms known as “stereotypies”—swaying, nodding, or gnawing on the metal bars of their crates.

Pregnant pigs are moved to farrowing crates just before giving birth. They live in these crates during the birth of their piglets and remain there for the short time they are allowed to nurse their babies. Our investigator described the stress of this transition:

A few sows would get to the farrow room entrance, look inside, do a 180, and plow their way through the others away from the farrow rooms. It was like they realized they were trapped in a never-ending nightmare and were going to try to figure a way out of it, which is when workers were forced to apply the sorting boards and guide them back to the farrow room. I wanted to just open the doors to the outside and let them all run free.

Like gestation crates, farrowing crates aren’t big enough for mother pigs to turn around or take more than one step forward or backward. Sometimes, the flooring also causes sores on their feet, legs, and bellies. 

The investigator documented many stillbirths and miscarriages, as well as mother pigs with bulging organs after labor, without proper veterinary care. One day, more than 100 piglets were discovered dead. In many instances, the corpses and placenta from these stillbirths were found between live piglets. 

Days-old piglets who survived had their testicles ripped out and tails cut off without pain relief—their mothers helpless to do anything but watch. The babies were stolen from their mothers just a few weeks after they were born, and the mama pigs were immediately forced back into restrictive gestation crates to continue the cycle of cruelty. 

The footage captures other heartbreaking moments, including baby pigs violently smashed headfirst against the ground, a shocking practice called “thumping” used to kill sick, injured, and runt animals. Our investigator also described pigs and piglets being brutally kicked, struck, stabbed with sharp objects, and thrown. Bloody, wounded, and sick pigs were left to suffer without proper veterinary care. 

Take Action

Cramming pigs for life inside crates barely larger than their bodies is unacceptable, and most Americans agree. That’s why, in 2018, Californians overwhelmingly voted into law a ballot initiative that banned such cruel confinement. But now, the meat industry seeks to silence these voters by challenging the law before the Supreme Court of the United States.   

Regardless of the Supreme Court’s decision, the public’s desire to defend animals is clear! Please join Mercy For Animals in urging Congress to protect farmed animals in the Farm Bill.

As individuals, we can also choose not to be part of this cruel and unsustainable food system. The best way to help pigs and other farmed animals is to eat more plant-based meals. Visit for plant-based tips, recipes, and more.