God has designed these remarkably intelligent and curious creatures with the ability to communicate with various expressions of grunts, oinks and squeals that have specific meanings. Pigs’ instinctive behavior is to form stable family groups with clearly established social hierarchies. In nature pigs are normally active during the day and spend 75% of their active time in foraging-related activities, including rooting, grazing and exploring with their snout. They construct simple nests for sleeping, particularly if the weather is cold, and choose to have separate areas for feeding, resting and defecating. Pigs have no sweat glands, so in nature they wallow in mud to keep themselves cool although they also like to cool down in clean fresh water.
However in factory farms, pigs are forced to spend their miserable lives standing or lying in their own waste.
Over the course of the 20th century, pig farming has metamorphosed from small, outdoor family-run farms to intensive, indoor production systems. These factory farms are engineered to reduce manual labour and increase efficiency, but they result in many welfare, ethical and health issues.
Sows particularly are mistreated. In nature shortly before giving birth sows develop a strong desire to build a nest from materials such as straw or twigs. On factory farms, a sow will be kept in a sow stall for her entire pregnancy – effectively for most of her adult life as she endures a cycle of repeated impregnation. These individual cages are approximately 2 feet wide—so small the animals can’t even turn around or take more than a step forward or backward.
Soon after birth piglets endure excruciating procedures without pain relief, like having their tails cut off, and being castrated. Factory farms further mutilate the piglets by painfully cutting or grinding their teeth without pain relief. This is done to prevent them from tearing the sows’ nipples. In nature, a mother just walks away when her piglets’ feeding starts to hurt her nipples but trapped inside a tiny metal frame, she can’t do this.
When even their basic needs are denied, sows experience both severe physical and psychological disorders. Studies have shown that pigs have long memories, which increases the torment they experience in an environment denuded of enrichment. Treating these intelligent creatures with such cruelty, neglect and blatant abuse is denying them to behave as God intended them to.
It is essential that we strive to improve the lives of God’s creatures, particularly the well-being of farm animals.
Pigs, like all animals, feel pain and experience fear. To show you are concerned about the issues of pig factory farms, please consider taking one small step by not eating pork this Christmas. Also inform your family, friends and colleagues.
By Sonia de Villiers, December 2014
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