• Becci Pigeon

Consider the plight of the pig this Mother's Day

mother pig with 8 black and white pigs nursing
What life SHOULD look like for mother pigs...

Consider the plight of the mother pig.

The majority of mother pigs in the UK are kept in farrowing crates prior to giving birth. These crates are considered inhumane enough that they are banned in Switzerland, Sweden and Norway, and are very similar to the infamously cruel ‘gestation crate’, which are banned in the European Union and several U.S. states. Farrowing crates are made up of metal bars that severely restrict any movement. The pig cannot turn around; she can lie down, stand up or sit.

Once the piglets are born, their mother is barely able to touch them; they must suckle through the bars of the crate. She will be kept confined like this until the industry considers the piglets weaned. In nature, this process takes three to four months on average. On farms, however, the piglets are separated from their mother at three weeks old, causing considerable distress. Within two weeks, she will be impregnated again, usually via artificial insemination.

Like all female animals in the food industry, this repeated cycle of pregnancy and separation continues until the sow’s reproductive system is exhausted and her body can no longer endure the strain. She will be two or three to four years old and every year will have given birth to two litters of 10 to 12 piglets. Despite the fact that pigs can live 15 to 20 years, the industry considers her ‘spent’ at this point and she will be sent to slaughter. Her worn body will be used to make low-quality products like pork pies and sausages.

The mother pig suffers for her entire life. Her beloved babies are taken from her again and again before she is no longer useful to the industry and she finally meets the same fate they did--death in a gas chamber. Also known as 'C02 stunning', this method of slaughter that has been widely condemned as egregiously cruel from its inception. Even the government's own advisory body, the Farm Animal Welfare Council, described it as 'unacceptable' and recommended that it be banned within five years. This was in 2003 and since then, the number of pigs slaughtered in gas chambers has only increased.

So spare a thought for mother pigs this Mother's Day, and remember some of the other mother animals this year who will never get to keep--or sometimes, even meet--their babies...

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