Pigs looking forward to a pork-free Christmas

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By Frank Molteno, OWL

pig Pigs are highly intelligent, sensitive, social and fun-loving animals. Picture: courtesy of Green Monday

A ‘call to action’ on behalf of pigs!  We urge people of faith to send a strong message to the pork industry in South Africa that the cruel treatment of animals is not acceptable.

In an Earthkeeper newsletter sent earlier this year we recommended that you start avoiding all pork and other meat products derived from pigs.  We now renew and amplify our appeal by calling for a pork-free time of festivities, including Christmas for all those of Christian faith.  This is a season of peace, love, caring, hope and joy.  Pig farming in the modern era is about cruelty, pain, suffering and hopelessness.

A pregnant pig in a South African factory farm spends her entire 16-week pregnancy incarcerated in a sow stall or gestation crate.  This container is only slightly larger than her body, making it impossible for her to lie down comfortably, let alone turn around. The hard, slatted flooring causes foot injuries, damage to joints and often lameness.


Mother pig is then moved into a farrowing crate for the birth and suckling of her babies.  Here she is confined for another 4 weeks. This crate is again so restrictive that all she can do is stand and lie down, unable to turn to see her piglets.  After 28 days her young are taken from her and she goes back into a sow stall for re-insemination.

For at least 4 years this cycle is repeated again and again until she is considered spent and is sent for slaughter.  This is the sow’s life.  She never gets to walk.  The intense boredom and frustration of a lifetime of confinement causes abnormal, repetitive behaviours such as biting at the bars of the crate and chewing with an empty mouth.

But there is some good news. Pressure from people with compassion and the unflagging efforts of organisations like Compassion in World Farming (South Africa) (CiWF(SA)) has compelled the South African Pork Producers Organisation (SAPPO) to agree to phase out sow stalls by 2020.

Farmers affiliated to SAPPO must by then have modified the cycle described above to 8, instead of 16, weeks of pregnancy in a sow stall, the remaining 8 weeks in ‘loose housing’, 4 weeks in a farrowing crate as currently the case and then back into a sow stall for re-insemination and the next 8 weeks of confinement.

SAPPO has agreed to reduce the proportion of a sow’s life that she spends in sow stalls and farrowing crates from 100% to 60% by 2020.  It is still unacceptable, not only because of how long a sow will still be subjected to the most extreme form of confinement, but also because of how unnatural and unpleasant the conditions even in ‘loose housing’ are.


Reducing the time in sow stalls also fails to address tail docking without anaesthetic, castration of male piglets without pain relief, the separation of mothers from their young, living entire lives indoors without seeing the sun, or the opportunity to run on the grass, root around in the ground and roll in the mud to cool off, the frightening ‘death row’ ride to the abattoir, and the terror and agony of their death.

There are a few farmers who are already doing a little better.  Five days in a sow stall for impregnation, the remaining 15 weeks of pregnancy in loose housing, 4 weeks in a farrowing crate and then back into a sow stall for 5 days.  This reduces to ‘only’ 25% the proportion of a sow’s life that she is confined in either a sow stall or a farrowing crate.    According to CiWF(SA), approximately 18% of pig farms in South Africa are doing it this way.  This meat is euphemistically labelled either ‘Sow Friendly’ or ‘Pork 360’.

The bottom-line is that pig farming in anything like its modern-day forms is in flagrant violation of the universally accepted Golden Rule that we should treat others as we would want them to treat us.  I have not had the pleasure of getting to know a pig personally but by all scientific accounts and lived stories pigs are highly intelligent, sensitive, social and fun-loving animals.  What they are subjected to in factory farms and abattoirs is so cruel, so inhumane and involves such extreme suffering that it is all but unbearable to contemplate.

We’ve all heard it said that ‘we are what we eat’.  There is a sense in which this is physically true in as much as the cells of our bodies are formed from what we eat.  It is also true in a more spiritual sense.  The food we eat, embodies a history that, even when we are not conscious of it, becomes a part of us.  Where its history is happy and kind, the resultant intuitive compassion becomes part of us.  Where its history is full of cruelty and pain, the consequent negative vibrations similarly become part of us.  If we eat mindfully, we can taste the suffering that some food embodies, and it does not taste good.

During the upcoming festive season when most of us tend to enjoy eating a bit more than usual, let us eat what is good and make a special effort to avoid food containing pain.  Please join us in making all festivities including Christmas pork-free.  Also please sign Farm Sanctuary SA’s petition at: http://www.farmsanctuarysa.co.za/petition.html

Let’s speak up for these lovely animals whose voices fellow humans have lost the ability to hear and understand.  After all, pigs have the same source as us.  Let’s do this for them.  Let’s do it for our souls.  Let’s do it for God – for all that is good and holy.

Acknowledgement: Thanks to Compassion in World Farming (South Africa) for empirical information, the infographic and pictures: http://www.animalvoice.org/