The heartbreaking life of a factory-farmed mother pig


The story of mother pigs in factory farming is a sad one. Tens of millions of pigs, in many countries around the world, spend their entire adult lives in a space no larger than a household fridge. Find out how you can help

Cogs in a machine 

Selectively bred to produce as many piglets as possible, a mother pig’s adult life begins when she is first impregnated. This is sometimes done when the pig is as young as eight months.   

Far from natural breeding, she is forced into a small cage for this process. She will be moved from cage to cage for the rest of her life. At a factory farm, she is just a breeding ‘machine’.  

Alone in a sea of cages 

Unable to turn around, she is caged, and lined up with hundreds of sows in an enormous shed. Bars separate her from other pigs so she can’t form friends, or seek comfort or security in groups. She can’t escape; she can’t retreat, ever.  

Each cage is no more than two metres long and less than a metre wide. It’s only slightly bigger than her own body, and no bigger than a household fridge.  

Uncomfortable and in pain 

This is a far cry from the comfortable grass bed she would seek in nature. Pigs like to be clean, but a mother pig on a factory farm has to lie in her own excrement all day. She is cramped and develops shoulder sores from rubbing against the steel bars. 

The concrete floor is hard, and she is confined there day in, day out. In frustration, she bites the bars of the steel cage that surrounds her. 

In these cages, mother pigs live their whole lives unable to express natural behaviours, forage, or socialise with other pigs. They are kept alone in cages. They experience lameness, intense stress, self-inflicted injury and depression. 

This is no life for a pig.  

Giving birth in a cage 

Finally, after she has endured this pregnancy in a prison, she is moved to yet another cage in preparation for giving birth. Her natural instinct is to build a nest, but she is unable to.  

She’s moved to a ‘birthing’ cage, where there’s nothing but bars and concrete again.  

She’s highly stressed at the very moment she needs to relax. This adds even more pain and suffering to the birth. When her piglets arrive, the steel bars can block her from reaching them.  She is unable to form a normal mother-piglet bond.  

Babies snatched too soon 

When her babies are just three weeks old, they are forcibly weaned and taken away from her. She is returned to another cage to be made pregnant again, and the painful cycle repeats once more.  

She’ll endure multiple pregnancies throughout her miserable life. This is until her body starts to break down and she is no longer of any use to the factory farming industry.  

Help end this horror 

This is the life of one caged mother pig. But there are hundreds in just one shed; thousands on a farm; tens of millions globally. 

But this suffering is avoidable. Keeping mother pigs in groups, rather than in cages, is good for animals and business. There is no excuse for factory farming. 

You can help end pigs’ suffering by eating less pork, and by choosing higher-welfare pork when you do eat it. The less demand there is for pork from factory-farmed pigs, the less pigs will suffer.

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