Pigs - key welfare issues

Here are some of the reasons why we're worried about the welfare of pigs.

sow with piglets on grass © RSPCA

Tail docking

This involves removing part of the pig's tail in order to reduce the risk of tail biting in older pigs. Tail biting is painful and can lead to serious injury. It can be a symptom of physical or mental stress.

Teeth reduction

This is where the sharp ends of the needle teeth are removed on some piglets to reduce damage to the sows' teats during suckling and to other piglets.

Castration (male piglets)

This is carried out mainly to reduce the risk of 'boar taint' in the meat. Castration is uncommon in the UK, but the majority of male piglets in Europe are still castrated, many without pain relief.

Sow stalls

These cause severe welfare problems, as the sow is unable to turn around or take more than one or two steps forward or backward, and most have no access to bedding throughout the majority of their pregnancy. Sow stalls have been banned in the EU since January 2013, although their use is allowed for up to four weeks after mating. They have been completely banned in the UK since 1999.

Farrowing crates

These prevent the sow from turning around for up to five weeks around the time of farrowing. Due to confinement and a lack of bedding material, the sow can't build a nest, further frustrating her.

Nose ringing

This is carried out in outdoor sows to try to reduce rooting of the ground, which can lead to an increase in the death rates of piglets due to chilling. As well as pain when the ring is inserted and the stress of handling, nose rings work by causing discomfort and pain, as the sow goes to root with her snout, causing her to stop.

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