The welfare of pigs farmed in the UK
The welfare of pigs in the UK is generally better than in the rest of Europe. A proportion of pigs in the UK have access to the outdoors. The UK has banned the use of sow stalls (also known as gestation crates) that cruelly limit the ability of pregnant sows to move. Male pigs in the UK are typically spared the pain of castration without anaesthetic, a cruel practice that is guaranteed against by the Soil Association and RSPCA’s Freedom Foods standards.
All these are advances on the conditions in which pigs in other parts of the world are raised. However, pigs in the UK endure short lives in factory farm conditions where the welfare of the animals is sacrificed for the higher volumes and profit margins that intensive farming offers.
Pig farming and pork consumption in the UK – the facts
- Approximately 9 million pigs are slaughtered annually in the UK
- The majority of UK fattening pigs spend most of their lives indoors without access to the sun or the chance to express many of their normal behaviours.
- Around 40 % of UK sows (the mother pigs) are kept free range.
The welfare of pigs farmed in Asia and Latin America – WSPA’s work
WSPA’s farm animal welfare programme focuses on Asia and Latin America, where most of the world’s meat is produced. For example, almost half of the world’s total number of pigs are in China.
In many parts of the world, including much of Asia and Latin America, there is no legislation protecting the welfare of farm animals. WSPA leads the Asian Coalition for Farm Animals (ACFA) and the Latin American Coalition for Farm Animals (LACFA). These two coalitions raise awareness of farm animal welfare and lobby for legislation protecting farm animals. These coalitions are advancing the welfare of pigs in many aspects.
Pig welfare around the world
South Koreais one of the larger producers of pigs in Asia, rearing nearly 10 million animals in 2007 alone. WSPA has supported its member society, the Korean Animal Welfare Association (KAWA), to carry out the first ever investigation of pig farming in Korea, expose the shocking conditions of South Korean pig farms which is now uses as evidence in its campaign for change.
Chinais the world’s single largest producer of pigs. Since 2007, WSPA has been collaborating with the Chinese authorities to train slaughterhouse workers in humane techniques for the handling and slaughter of pigs, saving millions of animals from a unnecessarily cruel and painful death.
WSPA is also working through the model farm project to stop cruel farm practices by pioneering alternative methods that demonstrate good practice in animal welfare and are also profitable for farmers.
WSPAhas supported its member society, the Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan (EAST), in its successful campaign to achieve legislation to criminalise the inhumane slaughter of pigs. EAST is also campaigning against the cruel Pigs of God contest.
In Latin America:
Around half of Colombia’s 2.5 million pigs never see the light of day in cruel factory farms. WSPA is working in Colombia to promote the need for humane alternatives with public information campaigns and conferences for veterinarians working in the pig industry,
In Brazil, one of the world’s biggest producers of animal products, WSPA is developing a high welfare demonstration farm and training centre to provide a centre of excellence where farmers are able to learn humane handling and husbandry practices.
What you can do
1. If you eat pork, buy organic and free-range or RSPCA Freedom Food labelled products
If you eat pork, it can be difficult to find out which country your pork product originates from or the welfare standards by which the pig was raised and slaughtered (there is no legal requirement across the EU to state this information on food labelling. Voluntary labelling schemes are widely used in the UK however and can help to make animal welfare choices easier when buying meat or animal products
Organic – particularly Soil Association, which guarantees the highest welfare standards for pork among other products
Free-range - there is no legal definition of ‘free-range pork’ but it is generally understood to mean pigs that have been reared outside for most of their lives
Outdoor-bred and outdoor-reared – these claims offer higher animal welfare potential but these terms still lack legal definition
RSPCA Freedom Food (indoor and outdoor systems) – these guarantee higher standards of welfare but still allow for limited use of farrowing crates which restrict the movement and natural behaviour of pigs
2. Buy British
Buying British meat or animal products certainly doesn’t guarantee that animal was raised and slaughtered humanely but it is definitely better than buying most imports, as the welfare of farm animals in the UK is better protected than in many other parts of the world, including much of Europe.