I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals.
~ Winston Churchill
Pigs are highly intelligent, social animals, and very protective of their young. In nature, a pregnant sow will make a nest of soft leaves, grass, and straw, creating a private, comfortable place to give birth and nurse her young. Mother pigs even sing to their babies while nursing. A sow will take great pains to keep her piglets warm and safe from harm. By nature, pigs are fastidious and clean, and won’t soil their nest. Piglets learn to run to the sound of their mother’s voice.
Like human children, piglets like to play and chase each other, frolicking with obvious pleasure.
Sows have such a strong biological need to create a nest for their babies, that they’ll often rub their snouts raw against the concrete in the nest-making behavior of gathering straw. They’re forced to give birth on hard concrete floors and metal grates, lying in their own excrement and urine. After giving birth, sows are moved to farrowing crates, which are wide enough for them to lie down and nurse their babies, but not big enough for them to turn around.
Normally, they would nurse their young for twelve weeks, but on factory farms, piglets are separated from their mothers after only a couple weeks. Over 20% of prematurely weaned piglets die of stress and disease.
The survivors are subjected to painful mutilations such as castration, having their teeth clipped, and tails cut, all without anesthesia or pain relief.
They’re placed in stacked wire cages called “nurseries”, which bear no resemblance to a place of quiet comfort that title would normally suggest. They’re fed a synthetic formula instead of their own mother’s milk. When they’re able to eat solid food, they’re transferred to crowded pens to be raised for breeding or meat.
Many pigs are slaughtered at only 6 months of age, having been deprived their entire brief lives of any basic comfort or natural behavior. They endure a life of brutality, confinement, and emotional distress, then are subjected to a violent, painful death. Neither sow nor piglet will ever experience the simple, innate pleasure of each other’s warmth.
Meanwhile, the sows who’ve had their babies taken away, are bred again and again for three or four years until they’re slaughtered. The natural life span of a pig is 15 years. On any given day in the United States, there are nearly 63 million pigs in factory farms, and 104 million are killed for food each year. Sows account for more than 6 million of the pigs in the U.S.
It’s disturbing to note that many of the human mothers who would spare no sacrifice for the sake of their children, are the same ones who don’t hesitate to feed their kids hot dogs and bacon on a regular basis.