Pigs in cages on factory farm - Animals in farming - World Animal Protection

Superbugs found in overseas pork products from one of New Zealand’s top import markets


Superbugs – bacteria resistant to antibiotics most critically important to humans – have been found in pork on supermarket shelves in Spain and Brazil. This is a result of the overuse of antibiotics in the cruel factory farming of pigs

The superbug crisis

Superbugs in the food chain can cause food poisoning, blood poisoning, urinary tract infections and in some cases, even death.  

By current estimates, superbugs are killing 700,000 people every year. 

Antibiotics and factory farming

This shocking result of our investigation highlights how the overuse of antibiotics in factory farming is propping up a broken system.  

Three quarters of the world’s antibiotics are used in farming each year, with the highest use in pigs. Routine overuse is often associated with low-welfare practices.  

For pigs on factory farms, this means: 

  • piglets are taken from their mothers far too early  
  • mother pigs are used as breeding machines, kept in steel cages no bigger than a fridge, and are unable to turn around 
  • piglets are cruelly mutilated often with no pain relief: their tails are cut, their teeth are ground or clipped, their ears notched. Most male piglets are castrated 
  • pigs are cramped in dark, squalid warehouses forced to lie in their own waste.  

These stressful and cruel conditions created by pork producers are the perfect breeding ground for infection. Instead of creating a better environment for pigs, they’re overusing antibiotics to stop stressed animals getting sick, causing superbugs.  

Find out more in our full report.

Pig in a barren environment

Pigs on factory farms become stressed and ill

Supermarkets must act

Superbugs were found in pork from Carrefour Spain and Walmart Brazil. No testing on pork on New Zealand supermarket shelves has been done.

However, New Zealand imports significant volumes of pork (65%) currently unlabelled, from overseas producers where animal welfare standards can be low, and antibiotic use can be high; meaning antibiotic resistant superbugs could be found here. 

We’re calling for global supermarkets to improve the lives of pigs by only sourcing pork from high-welfare farms. 

Our head of campaign – raise pigs right, Jacqueline Mills, said: “We tested pork products to see for ourselves how the pig industry contributes to superbugs, and to provide evidence to supermarkets to urge them to take responsibility and help to raise pigs right. 

“Factory farm conditions for pigs cause them immense pain and stress, which leads to excessive use of antibiotics. But there is a better way. Supermarkets must demand their suppliers improve the welfare of pigs.” 

Our work: a better future for farming

We are working with producers to develop higher welfare systems, to get pigs out of cages and into social groups, to end painful mutilations and to provide manipulable materials to allow for expression of natural behaviour.  

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