Canterbury Pig Farm - confinement, misery, suffering
In April this year, Farmwatch investigated a pig farm in Canterbury and documented the appalling conditions. Sows were confined in farrowing crates, unable to turn around and piglets were kept in concrete pens, covered in their own faeces. What we found is not uncommon on New Zealand pig farms and is completely legal.
In 2010 the Government reluctantly announced changes to pig farming regulations, these included the phase out of sow stalls by December 2015. While this is an advancement for sow welfare it will still remain legal for farmers to confine sows to farrowing crates while they give birth and nurse their piglets, and for piglets destined for slaughter to be confined to filthy, concrete pens.
The conditions our investigators found in the farrowing crate area were similar to what we have found on other farms and are extremely cruel, but within the law. Farrowing crates are only slightly larger than a sow and restrict her movement so much, she is unable to properly mother her young. She cannot walk around, only sit, stand or lie down.
A common cause of death for young piglets is being crushed to death by their mother. It is for this reason that the industry justifies the continued confinement of sows in farrowing crates. However research has shown that in the wild a mother sow will display a specific sequence of behaviours to communicate to her piglets that she is going to sit or lie down and her piglets will move, resulting in lower piglet mortality. In farrowing crates pigs are unable to display their normal behaviour and have so little room that they essentially fall to the ground with little control when they want to lie down.
Fattening pens are barren concrete pens that house piglets who are destined for slaughter. They are usually overcrowded, damp and covered in faeces. On this farm these pens were housed inside run down old sheds, filled with rats. The pigs were lying in pools of water and were covered in their own faeces. Like the farrowing crates, what was documented on this farm was common place and legal.
To view the full set of images from this farm please visit the Farmwatch Facebook page.