Pigs - Photo by Mike Suarez

A majority of the 125 million pigs raised in the United States for meat are housed indoors in barren, cramped concentrated animal feeding operations (often referred to as “factory farms”), and are subjected to mutilations such as cutting off the tail (i.e., tail docking) and castration, both without pain medication. Pregnant sows are traditionally confined to crates for their four-month long gestation; while in the crates, these sows can only stand in place or lie down. Along with the severely restricted movement, they are deprived of any other mental and physical stimulation.

The sows are transferred to another type of enclosure, farrowing crates, shortly before they give birth. As well as being intensively restrictive, these crates limit physical interactions between the sow and her piglets except for suckling. After the piglets are weaned, the sows are impregnated and subjected to the same treatment again, creating a cruel cycle of stress and deprivation until they are slaughtered.

Pigs raised on high-welfare, pasture-based farms, on the other hand, do not suffer from the welfare problems of factory farms. Pregnant sows remain in groups instead of being crated in extreme isolation. When sows are ready to give birth, they build their own nests. Piglets get to stay with their mothers for longer periods of time. Because the pigs have space and continuous access to the outdoors, tail docking is unnecessary (and, in fact, is prohibited by these programs). The pigs have the space and environment that allows them to engage in natural behaviors, including roaming, rooting, playing and wallowing.