A recent article in The Guardian reveals that mother pigs at factory farms in the U.S. are dying at an alarming rate and it’s only getting worse.
According to Swine Management Services, a consulting company for the meat industry, the mortality rate among sows rose from 5.8 percent to 10.2 percent between 2013 and 2016 at factory farms owning more than 125 sows. But why is this happening? Keep reading.
A leading cause of these rising numbers is an increase in prolapses, when a pig’s rectum, vagina, or uterus slips out of place and hangs outside her body. The Guardian reports that in some cases, the prolapses are fatal; in others, the pigs suffering them are killed. The article cites a 2017 report showing that 25 to 50 percent of sow deaths were due to prolapses.
Some experts argue that one reason so many pigs are suffering prolapses is the intensive breeding they are forced to endure. At factory farms mother pigs are treated as breeding machines, spending most of their lives in gestation or farrowing crates, a form of confinement so extreme that the animals are unable to turn around.
The average mother pig bears 23.5 piglets per year. After two to four litters, these mothers are sent to slaughter and replaced by younger pigs who can produce piglets at a high enough rate to keep up with industry demands.
Mary Temple Grandin, a professor of animal science at Colorado State University, told The Guardian: “They’re breeding the sows to produce a lot of babies. Well, there’s a point where you’ve gone too far.”
Unfortunately, the pork industry is growing. Just this week The Des Moines Register reported on a recent USDA statement showing a record number of pigs at factory farms in Iowa, the nation’s largest pork-producing state. As of September 1, according to the USDA, Iowa has 23.6 million pigs, an increase of 4 percent from the previous year and the highest number ever recorded.
Pigs raised and killed for food are treated horribly. When they’re as young as 10 days old, piglets are taken from their mothers and have their tails cut off, their teeth clipped, and their testicles ripped out without any painkillers. And piglets who are too sick or are not growing fast enough are gruesomely killed by being slammed headfirst onto concrete floors or piled into gassing carts where they slowly suffocate.
Surviving piglets are packed into filthy, overcrowded pens. While pigs in nature live for about 15 years, at factory farms they are selectively bred to grow extremely fast, reaching slaughter size in just six months. Rapid growth takes a toll on these gentle animals, often causing joint problems.
Their mothers are confined in barren metal cages that keep them immobilized. This is one of the worst forms of institutionalized animal abuse in existence.
At the slaughterhouse, pigs are all killed the same merciless way: They are hung upside down, often while still conscious, and their throats are slit.
Pigs are considered the fifth-most intelligent animal in the world—even more intelligent than dogs—and are capable of playing video games with more success than chimps.
Despite this, not a single federal law protects pigs during their lives at factory farms. The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act pertains only to the slaughterhouse, providing zero protection to them for most of their lives.
If we wouldn’t treat dogs or cats in such appalling ways, how can we pay the meat industry to do it to pigs? Each of us has the power to say no to animal abuse by replacing inherently cruel animal products with compassionate vegan alternatives.