Thinking About Pigs

Bruce Wagman

Pigs have been on my mind a lot lately.  Years ago I met several of them at the Farm Sanctuary home in Orland, California, and while I already had appreciated their complex personalities and emotional lives, getting to spend time with them changed the knowledge to revelation.  We sat on a riverbank with Gene and scratched pig bellies in the sun and watched them playing, eating, lounging.  The grunts of joy and doglike behavior was notable from the guy I was petting.  He was halfway onto his 1000-plus pound back, grunting and snuffling while I rubbed and cooed to him.  That day, probably fifteen years ago, has never left me, and my love of his species was further informed by my visits and introductions to the great pig friends I have made at Animal Place.  They impressed me as a thoughtful, prescient, and extremely playful bunch; eminently curious, very thoughtful, and wise. 

That’s a great image but mainly, for the past ten years or so, when I think of pigs, I think of mother-torture.  From dealing with the issues and cases, I now have, seared in my mind, images of “gestation crates” or “sow stalls,” those confinement technique weapons of cruelty that the modern pig meat industry utilizes for commercial efficiency, while simultaneously robbing their pigs of every sense of being an individual, a pig, a mother.    A select group of female pigs are chosen, presumably for their genetic superiority, to be turned into living machines who are repeatedly impregnated until they are worn out and wasted by the industry and then thrown out like so many pounds of trash.  During their lives they go from gestation crate (while pregnant) to farrowing crate where, after giving birth, they are placed so that their young can suckle but cannot otherwise interact with their mom, who is again kept on a concrete slab inside bars, in an area that is usually slightly smaller than the mother, so that she not only has to lie in her waste, but she is also pushed into metal bars 24-7.  Pigs in these confinement situations suffer in pain from the lack of exercise and movement, and experience psychological damage from the lifetime of deprivation and denial. Continue reading