9 Dark Secrets the Pork Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know

Pigs are considered the fifth-most intelligent animal in the world. Complex and sensitive, these incredible beings sing to their babies, can recognize the unique calls of their mothers, and enjoy snuggling with their friends.

Sadly, pigs are treated like meat-producing machines by the pork industry. Here are nine dark secrets the industry doesn’t want you to know:

1. Artificial Insemination

Pigs are considered ready for breeding at just seven months old. The majority of pigs in the United States are forcibly impregnated through artificial insemination. A rod is inserted about eight or 10 inches into a pig’s body to reach her cervix.

2. Gestation Crates

After being bred, pigs are put in gestation crates. Used to confine most of the six million pigs used for breeding in the United States during their pregnancies, these metal cages are only slightly larger than the animals themselves. They prevent pregnant pigs from turning around, walking, socializing, or even lying down comfortably.

3. Farrowing Crates

Pregnant pigs are moved to farrowing crates about a week before giving birth. They live in these crates during the birth of their piglets and remain there for another 21 to 28 days as they nurse their babies. Like gestation crates, farrowing crates are so small that mother pigs are unable to turn around and can barely take even one step forward or backward. Sometimes, the flooring can also cause sores on their feet, legs, and udders.

4. Mutilations

Piglets—who are taken from their mothers after just three weeks—endure painful mutilations. These include castration and having their teeth ground down, parts of their sensitive tails cut off, and holes punched in their ears—all generally done without pain relief or veterinary care.

5. Thumping

When piglets are sick or aren’t growing quickly enough, farmers sometimes kill them by slamming them headfirst against concrete floors or walls. This is known as “thumping,” and it’s considered an acceptable form of “euthanasia” by the industry.

6. Cramped Conditions

After being taken from their mothers, piglets are transferred to separate facilities where they will live until they reach “market weight.” These facilities are often filthy and crowded, with floors constructed of plastic or plastic-covered steel. Pigs trapped in these dark, barren facilities will never doze in the sun, roll in the mud, or experience anything that makes life worth living.

7. Unnatural Growth

Along with being bred for increased size and growth rate, pigs are fed special diets to make them quickly reach a massive 250 to 275 pounds. Pigs who do not grow fast enough, fall ill, or are injured are killed. Between one in five and one in four female pigs of “breeding age” die or are killed each year.

8. Cruel Transport

While a pig can naturally live upwards of 20 years, the pork industry sends pigs to slaughter when they are just six months old. Many pigs in transport are forced to spend long hours in crowded trailers without food or water. In winter, they endure below-freezing conditions and are exposed to snow, rain, and frigid winds. In summer, temperatures inside trucks can rise to well over 100°F. Many pigs suffer heat stress, asphyxiation, and heart attacks.

9. Terrifying Slaughter

Once at the slaughterhouse, terrified pigs are stunned via electrocution or captive-bolt gun. Some are not fully incapacitated and remain conscious as they are hung upside down and their throats are cut. Mercy For Animals investigations have uncovered a range of atrocities at slaughterhouses, including pigs shocked with electric prongs in their eyes, bludgeoned with metal pipes, kicked, and stabbed for minutes while still conscious.

In 2018, California voters passed Proposition 12, making extreme confinement of laying hens, pregnant pigs, and calves used for veal illegal. But now the meat industry is trying to undo these protections.

Regardless of the outcome, the public has made its opposition to extreme animal confinement abundantly clear. This is why it’s time for a federal law that guarantees basic protections for farmed animals. There’s no excuse for making farmed animals suffer in crates and cages. Join Mercy For Animals in urging Congress to protect farmed animals in the Farm Bill.