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The Pork Industry

Like the beloved characters in Charlotte’s Web and Babe, real pigs are intelligent and sensitive, each with his or her own unique personality. But pigs raised for food in real life are treated far more cruelly than their fictional counterparts in these tales.

Almost all of the millions of pigs killed for food in the U.S. every year are raised on extremely crowded, filthy factory farms. These intelligent social animals are deprived of natural sunlight and the feel of grass beneath their feet, until the day when they are shoved and prodded onto a truck bound for the slaughterhouse.

Mothers Abused

Most mother pigs in the U.S. spend their entire adult lives confined to cramped metal crates. They never feel the affectionate nuzzle of a mate, and they are thwarted in their natural desire to build a cozy, comfortable nest. Instead, they are surrounded by cold metal bars and forced to lie on wet, feces-covered floors.

When they are old enough to give birth, these sows are artificially inseminated and imprisoned for the entire length of their pregnancies in “gestation crates,” cages that are just 2 feet wide and too small for them even to turn around or lie down comfortably. The pigs often develop bedsores from lack of movement.

After giving birth, mother pigs are moved to “farrowing crates,” enclosures similar to gestation crates, with only a tiny additional concrete area on which the piglets can nurse. One worker describes the process: “They beat the shit out of [the mother pigs] to get them inside the crates because they don’t want to go. This is their only chance to walk around, get a little exercise, and they don’t want to go [back into a crate].”

Gestation and farrowing crates are so barbaric that they have been banned in several U.S. states as well in the U.K. and Sweden.

This intensive confinement, loneliness, and deprivation often causes mother pigs to go insane, which is manifested in repetitive behaviors such as neurotically chewing on their cage bars or obsessively pressing on their water bottles. After three or four years, their bodies are exhausted (despite the fact that the pigs are still quite young), and they are shipped off to slaughter.

Torn From Their Mothers and Mutilated

The piglets are taken away from their mothers when they are less than a month old. In nature, they would stay with their mothers for several months. The mothers are impregnated again, and the cycle of forced breeding and imprisonment continues.

The male piglets have their testicles cut out of their scrotums. Both males and females have their tails cut off, many of their teeth clipped in half, and their ears mutilated, all without any pain relief. They are crammed into pens crowded with many other piglets, where they are kept until they are deemed large enough for slaughter. The animals are given almost no room to move, because, as one pork-industry journal put it, “[O]vercrowding pigs pays.”

Awaiting Slaughter

Impeccably clean by nature, pigs on factory farms are forced to live amid their own feces and vomit—and sometimes even amid the corpses of other pigs. Extreme crowding, poor ventilation, and filth cause rampant disease. By the time they’re sent to slaughter, many pigs on factory farms suffer from lung lesions caused by pneumonia. At any given time, more than one-quarter of pigs suffer from mange. They are fed antibiotics as a growth promoter, but many pigs still die from infections.

Because of illness, a lack of room to exercise, and genetic manipulation that causes them to grow too large too quickly, pigs often develop arthritis and other joint problems. Many pigs on factory farms are forced to live on slatted floors above giant manure pits. Smaller pigs often sustain severe leg injuries when their legs get caught between the slats.

Many farmers simply kill sick animals instead of giving them medicine or veterinary care in order to save money. A PETA investigation found that a manager at an Oklahoma farm killed pigs by beating them with metal gate rods, and others were left to die without food or water. Unwanted “runts” were killed, as they are on most farms, by “thumping,” or slamming their heads against the floor.

You can help put an end to this cruelty. Read PETA’s free vegetarian/vegan starter kit online or order a free hard copy and start switching to delicious pork-free foods, such as veggie dogs, mock riblets, and tempeh bacon. We’ll send you all the tips and recipes you’ll need to help you make the transition to animal-friendly eating.

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