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A Life Contained: Facts About The Pig Industry
By Brenda Shoss, Kinship Circle
Unpiglike Conformity
An automated hum defines daybreak inside a dark shed. Grunts and squeals rise from narrow stalls arranged in corridors. Each row contains over 100 pigs. At times, snouts and hooves align symmetrically in a scene of unpiglike conformity.

One 600-pounder wobbles insecurely upon grated flooring that cuts into her sensitive hooves. Another, marked with shoulder sores and eye abrasions, rubs against metallic bars in a vain effort to turn around.

Sows spend 4-month pregnancy cycles in fixed positions. Barely enough room to rise or recline. Pigs give birth in farrowing crates. They nurse the babies through metal slats.

Veal crates, pig gestation crates and hen battery cages give animals so little space, they cannot turn, walk, rise… Bans have passed at state levels:

  • Gestation Crate Ban:
    Florida, California, New Jersey, Colorado, Maine, Michigan, Oregon, Ohio, Rhode Island

  • Veal Crate Ban:
    Arizona, California, Colorado, Ohio, Michigan, Maine, Rhode Island

  • Battery Cage Ban:
    Arizona, California, Michigan


Type 9-digit zip code, i.e., 63130-4142

From search results, use contacts listed under: CONGRESSIONAL

Go to if LEGISLATOR LOOK-UP won't work in your browser.
Or try: and

No space, sunlight, straw, mudbaths or anything pertinent to a pig. Piglets get about 3 weeks with mom before transferred to fattening cages. At least 15% of babies won't survive separation. Sows return to gestation crates for re-impregnation. Each will bear 20 or more piglets a year. In the U.S. pigs are annually processed by the millions on factory farms.

The National Pork Producer's Council recommends that crates be 2 feet wide, 7 feet long, and 3.3 feet high. "This extreme confinement allows a great many sows to be housed in an environmentally controlled situation, fed and cared for by a minimal and unskilled labor force, and maintained with minimal feed. Such a system allows maximal production efficiency," says Bernard Rollin, Professor of Physiology and Biophysics at Colorado State University. "Plainly, many of the needs of the animals are not met in austere confinement systems."

Pigs are gregarious individuals who thrive in the company of other pigs. In Rollin's study "Farm Animal Welfare: Social, Bioethical, and Research Issues," pigs in their natural habitat constructed shared nests and forged complex social bonds. Boxed and bored pigs cannot express instinctive behaviors. Researchers M. Mendl, A.J. Zanella, and D.M. Broom revealed that pigs with no hope for release may deteriorate into a state of swine depression. Many resort to neurotic coping mechanisms known as stereotypies.

They vacuum-chew air, head bob, bite and lick pen bars, and nose-jab objects. In "Farming beyond the ability for pigs to adapt," G. Van Putten suggests that these behaviors produce endorphins to help an animal deal with a bleak environment. Unlike pigs observed in sanctuaries, crated pigs display significant levels of aberration. By a sow's fourth pregnancy, she is the pig version of psychotic.

Pigs prefer to be pigs, thank you. A lot of money backs studies to prove pigs just want to be themselves. America could ban sow stalls, as the European Union has proposed. Instead, U.S. agri-experts seek ways to suppress neurotic behaviors they cause. To stop stress-related tail biting, each pig's tail is lopped off without anesthesia. Ears are clipped to ID piglets. Males are mutilated and overcrowded till slaughtered at 6 months. Females are re-impregnated over 3-5 years, then killed.

Sick animals, sick workers, sick food. Hogs and humans inhale dust, dander and noxious gases. Feces and urine are so pervasive, one study found 60% of surveyed workers have respiratory ailments. For pigs, physical distress is unending. An industry report speculates that 60% of U.S. herds harbor Porcine Reproductive-Respiratory Syndrome.

Grated floors, artificial growth acceleration and inactivity contribute to malformed muscle and bone. Pigs are arthritic, with weak or crippled legs. Most also suffer chronic urinary tract infections.

Some estimate that one-third to half of U.S. swine plants harbor salmonellosis. From 40-70% of stall-housed hogs are contaminated with bratislava and up to 85% are exposed to parvovirus. Transmissible gastroenteritis (TGE) claims most infected newborns.

Animals viewed as inanimate objects. Several years ago, the Oklahoma-based director of Seaboard, Inc. hog farm incurred cruelty charges after a PETA undercover video showed workers bludgeoning pigs with a hammer and smashing heads of piglets against a cement floor. PETA's investigative efforts also led to the conviction of 3 North Carolina farm workers. Among other atrocities, these workers had skinned and dismembered a fully conscious sow.
In 2002, Florida became the first state in U.S. history to launch a ballot initiative to ban hog gestation crates. The initiative passed into law and and inspired similar state-by-state reforms for farmed animals.

I've made many trips to Farm Sanctuary, a nonprofit refuge for rescued victims of the food industry in Upstate New York. On one visit, I stopped by the pig barn to bid farewell to the big critters. They lounged, pig against pig, on a wide floor of soft hay.

A few curious snouts rooted around the ground. I looked across the canopy of pink backs and bellies. One particular pig raised her enormous head, looked into my eyes — and grinned.

I carry her goofy smile in my thoughts. This pig was no inert mechanism of production. She was a unique individual, with a sense of humor.
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Animal cruelty sets the pace for today's industrialized pig, a mechanized "unit" to turn profit. On factory farms, bright, sensitive creatures are denied space, sunlight, straw bedding, mudbaths or any feature fundamental to a pig. "U.S. inventory of all hogs and pigs on 3/1/13 was 65.9 million head," (The Pig Site, USDA Hogs and Pigs). In the U.S., "9.22 million head" are killed (USDA Jun 2013).

► LIVES CONTAINED: Breeding sows are transferred between gestation crates and farrowing crates. Crates are 2-ft wide, 7-ft long, and 3.3-ft high (National Pork Producers Council). Large sows barely fit in crates. Four bars across the top of crates prevent animals from climbing out (Harmon, Jay, et. al. Swine Breeding and Gestation Facilities Handbook. MidWest Plan Service. MWPS-43, 2001). During 4-month pregnancy cycles, they live on a cold, bare, cement floors layered in their own excrement.
► MOTIONLESS ON METAL: Inside the hog mill, an automated hum defines daybreak. Pigs enclosed in narrow stalls arise with grunts and squeals. Each corridor contains over 100 pigs. Snouts and hooves sometimes align symmetrically in a scene of unpiglike conformity… One 600-pounder staggers over wire mesh flooring. Split-flesh wounds hurt her sensitive hooves. Another, with shoulder sores and eye abrasions, rubs against bars in a vain effort to turn around. The sows spend 4-month pregnancy cycles in fixed positions. Barely enough room to rise or recline.

► ENDLESS CYCLES, THEN DEATH: To give birth, sows are moved to farrowing crates. They stay immobilized on their sides until piglets are weaned. For just 3 weeks, piglets nurse through metal slats. Then they're moved to fattening cages. At least 15% of babies don't survive early separation. Sows return to 2-ft. wide gestation crates for reimpregnation over 14-16 weeks. Sows annually yield 6 litters before slaughtered (Hog Heaven And Hell, U.S. News & World Report. Satchell, Michael). "Extreme confinement…allows maximal production efficiency. Plainly, many of the needs of the animals are not met in austere confinement systems," (Bernard Rollin, Professor of Physiology and Biophysics at Colorado State University).
► CRIPPLED BY CONFINEMENT: Of 68,300 USA hog plants, those with 2,000+ pigs account for 87% of inventory. 61% warehouse 5,000+ pigs (USDA Nat'l Agricultural Stats Service ISSN: 1930-7128, Feb 2013). Up to 1/3 of breeding sows are culled for lameness, joint problems, strained tendons, or toe-foot-leg infections. Pigs suffer abrasions, knocks and sprains from poor housing and slatted concrete floors (Whittemore, Colin. Science and Practice of Pig Production. Oxford, England: Blackwell Science Ltd).

► NEUROTIC PIGS: Stall-housed pigs cope nerotically, "stereotypies," with swine depression (Researchers M. Mendl, A.J. Zanella, and D.M. Broom). They chew air (vacuum chew), bob heads, bite and lick pen bars, nose-jab objects. This creates endorphins that comfort an animal unable to deal with his or her bleak environment (Farming beyond the ability for pigs to adapt, G. Van Putten Pigs). Pigs are naturally inquisitive, with snouts that root the soil. They'd ordinarily build shared nests and forge elaborate social bonds (Rollin's study: "Farm Animal Welfare: Social, Bioethical, and Research Issues").

► MUTILATIONS: TAIL DOCKING: To deter tail chewing, which exposes blood and triggers cannibalism, 1/4 to 1/2 of tail flesh is amputated from 80% of all confined pigs (Swine Care Handbook, National Pork Producers). CASTRATION: 90% of pre-weaned males are castrated without anesthesia (Nat'l Academy of Sciences). TEETH CLIPPING: Within 24 hours of birth, a piglet's 8 sharp needle teeth are sliced with side-cutting pliers or toenail clippers (Taylor, Robert E., and Field, Thomas G. Scientific Farm Animal Production).

► TRANSPORT: About 95% of factory-farmed animals are transported in trucks, where they are typically overcrowded and suffer severe weather conditions, hunger, thirst. Many die of heat exhaustion or freezing during transport.

► SLAUGHTER: Pigs are rendered unconscious with commonly imprecise stunning methods. High voltage shots can burst capillaries and damage flesh intended for human consumption. Thus, voltage may be reduced. The weaker current paralyzes an animal, without loss of his or her sensibility (Grandin, Temple. Survey of Stunning and Handling in Federally Inspected Beef, Veal, Pork, and Sheep Slaughter Plants. USDA Agricultural Research Service). Cognizant animals — slung upside down by hind legs — kick, struggle and squeal as workers attempt to stick their necks with a knife. Some are still alive when submerged in scalding tanks. An insufficiently stunned pig may even remain alert during dismemberment.

Pigs are not a "health food," for human beings or the environment.

► THE NOT-SO-GREAT OTHER WHITE MEAT: Factory raised hogs get zero exercise and eat an all-grain diet. Their flesh is high in cholesterol and saturated fat (3.5 oz. pork serving: 90 mgs. cholesterol). Pork bacon, sausage, hot dogs…elevate heart disease risk by 42% and diabetes by 19% (Meta-analysis published in the journal Circulation; Renata Micha, Harvard School of Public Health, 2010).

► LUNG DISEASE: Consumption of cured pork (bacon, hot dogs, etc.) heightens risk for Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), commonly seen as emphysema and chronic bronchitis and the 4th leading cause of death in the U.S. (American Lung Association). People who eat cured meats 14 times monthly are 78% more likely to have COPD (American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine; Cured Meat Consumption, Lung Function, and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease Among U.S. Adults. Rui Jiang, David C. Paik, John L. Hankinson, R. Graham Barr. 2007; 175: 798-804).

► INFLUENZA: Scientists link swine with influenza, which annually kills some 20,000 Americans. Pigs get the flu virus from wild aquatic birds and give it to humans who eat pigs (Factory Pig Farms Spread Filth & Disease, E MAG, May-June 2000).

► DISEASE & ANTIBIOTIC OVERDOSE: In hog factories, air is saturated with dust, dander and noxious gases from animal feces and urine. Respiratory disease, swine arthritis and salmonellosis are common. The pork industry annually loses $187 million to diseases such as dysentery, cholera, trichinosis and other ailments (Animal Factories, by Jim Mason, Peter Singer).

From Dec 2005 to May 2006, 90% of nursery pigs and almost 80% of "finisher" pigs received antibiotics in feed (USDA 2007). MRSA — an antibiotic-resistant strain of Staphylococcus bacteria that kills more Americans annually than AIDS (100,000 infections, 19,000 deaths in 2005, JAMA) — has a more virulent strain linked to industrialized livestock. MRSA in 45% of 20 pig farms sampled in Ontario (Veterinary Microbiology 2007).

► HORMONES: Pigs are drugged with Carbadox to boost growth and stop dysentery. The European Union bans Carbadox and Canada seeks a ban on this carcinogen (Health Canada halts sale of pig drug. National Post, files The Canadian Press 4/10/01; National Post 8/11/01).

► POOP & WATER CONTAMINATION: Every year close to 3 trillion pounds of waste is dumped in football-field length lagoons teeming with dusts, molds, bacteria, heavy metals, ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, methane and many more vaporizable elements. Hog waste runoffs seep into ground water and local aquifers. CAFOs are leading contributor to water quality impairments in U.S. rivers and lakes (Animal Waste and Water Quality: U.S. EPA / Regulation CAFOs, Report for Congress).

► EXPOSURE TO WASTEPOOLS: Hog cesspools have been blamed for for respiratory disorders, chronic headaches, diarrhea/vomiting, earaches, seizures, memory loss, vertigo, neurological complications. "In particular, headache, runny nose, sore throat, excessive coughing, diarrhea and burning eyes were reported more frequently in the hog community," (Dr. Steven Wing, Univ. of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Aulding, OH, 2003).

► CLIMATE CHANGE: 18% of global greenhouse gasses are from meat production — more heat-sucking vapors than all cars, trucks, planes, ships (U.N. FAO, Livestock's Long Shadow, 2007). Livestock account for an estimated 51% of greenhouse gas emissions (Goodland, R. & Anhang, J. World Watch 22, 2009). 1/3 of global greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock production (2013, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany; Livestock Research Institute, Kenya).
2013: European Union gestation crate ban goes in effect.

11/4/08: California Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act passes in largest agricultural state. Ban on battery cages, veal crates, gestation crates will be phased in. Track yearly state initiatives

STATES THAT BANNED CRUEL CRATES: New Jersey, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island

U.S. Livestock Slaughter Annual Summary

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