pigs in factory farming

Pigs Suffering in Factory Farming

Pigs killed in the Australian meat industry suffer throughout their short lives, together we can ease this suffering. 


Pigs are intelligent and social animals[1] but are killed in the millions annually by the Australian pork industry[2].

It is widely known but ignored fact that pigs are intelligent beings, who can feel pleasure, pain, show avoidance to negative experiences, and can form close bonds within their kind[3].

In fact, studies have found that pigs are able to recognise themselves in a mirror, exhibit self-awareness and anticipate when a positive or negative event will occur[4], [5]. Pigs are also capable of successfully using joysticks to carry out video game tasks at various levels of complexity[6]. Pigs are also able to assess the perspective of others, display empathy and have distinct personalities[7], [8]. As with all other vertebrates, the UK Government has recently recognised pigs as sentient beings, capable of feeling complex emotions such as pain and joy[9].

Conditions of Pigs in Factory Farming

Despite widespread understanding of pigs’ intelligence and emotional capacity, there are approximately 2.4 million pigs in factory farming in Australia at any one time[10], [11]. There are approximately 4,300 pig “production sites” across Australia, with the Australian pork industry grossing 5.6 billion dollars from 2020-2021[12].

In Australia, the Model Code of Practice – Pigs serves as a guideline for the minimum standards of care for pigs for producers to meet obligations under laws[13]. The most recent edition of this code was written in 2008, and as such cannot reflect the current standards of animal welfare accepted by society, nor standards of animal welfare science[14]. There are issues evident in the code, and at various stages of the lives of pigs used for meat, that cause them unnecessary distress.

  • Enclosures

    90% of pigs in the meat industry are “farmed” indoors from birth to death[15], and can be kept on slatted concrete floors with no bedding[16]. Pigs are tidy animals, who like to keep their toilet area far from their living or feeding areas[17]. As per the Model Code however, it is recommended that pigs grown for meat and kept in pens have just enough room to access food and water, eat, defecate, and sleep[18]. The minimum space recommendation per pig ranges from just .03m2 for a 1kg pig to just .74m2 for a pig weighing 120kg[19]. This close confinement means pigs are not able to carry out their natural behaviours such as their need to forage and wallow, and provides them no environmental enrichment[20], [21]. These barren environments lead to boredom, frustration and distress[22]. Moreover, some producers have said this industrial scale farming of pigs in confinement has accelerated the spread of Japanese Encephalitis[23].

    To read our article on how a pig would naturally choose to spend their days in freedom, follow this link.
Piggery farm
  • Sow Stalls, Boar Stalls and Farrowing Crates
    Boars and sows, used for breeding of pigs, are kept separately. Boars are kept in metal stalls measuring just 2.4 metre by 70cm and are unable to turn around[24]. It is recommended they are taken out twice per week for semen collection or exercise[25]. In these conditions, boars experience frustration, chronic stress and development of abnormal behaviours[26].

    Sow stalls were similarly widely used for pregnant pigs in Australia, and sows could be kept in these stalls for the entire 115 days of their pregnancy[27]. These stalls, measuring 2 metre by 60 cm similarly meant sows could not turn around, and reduced both the sow’s bone strength and cardiovascular fitness[28], [29]. After public outrage, the Australian Pork Industry committed to phasing out sow stalls by 2017, instead keeping sows in loose housing until a week before birth when they are moved to farrowing crates[30]. Despite these assurances however, investigations in 2022 have revealed that sow stalls are still being used across parts of Australia[31].

    Sows are moved to farrowing crates to give birth[32]. These crates are similarly small metal cages with concrete or steel floors being slightly narrower than sow stalls[33, 34]. The size of the crates mean the sow is unable to carry out her natural nesting behaviours, with nest building considered a vital behavioural need for expectant mother pigs[35]. Sows are forced to give birth on this hard flooring, with her piglets then kept in a separate section that allows for nursing[36, 37]. Kept in this way, the sow is unable to interact with her piglets as she normally would, leading to a range of negative outcomes for both sows and piglets[38]. She and the piglets remain in the crate until they are weaned at approximately 3 to 4 weeks[39]. The natural weaning of piglets takes up to 5 months, and this early weaning, being separated from their mother and then mixed with unfamiliar pigs causes piglets much stress and can result in both health issues and negative behaviours[40].
Pigs in sow stalls
  • Elective Husbandry
    When removed from their mother, piglets may then undergo a series of stressful and painful procedures. They can be dipped with insecticides to prevent lice, and undergo oral drenching with anthelmintics to prevent parasites[41]. As per the Code, they may also undergo castration, ear notching, teeth clipping or the cutting off of part of their tail, with no anesthesia required[42]. To learn more about these painful procedures, click here.
Pigs in pig farm
  • Slaughter
    In Australia, pigs are typically slaughtered for meat at 5 or 6 months of age, while their natural life expectancy is 20 years[43, 44]. While waiting to be killed, pigs can go up to 24 hours without food[45]. 85% of pigs are killed by first being stunned by carbon dioxide to render them unconscious, then sliced with a knife and bled out[46]. Carbon dioxide stunning does not cause pigs to lose consciousness immediately, and these high concentrations of carbon dioxide cause difficulty breathing, a burning sensation in pigs’ nostrils and gums and significant distress[47, 48]. When sows and boars reach the end of the breeding productivity, they are also killed, but are more likely due to be stunned with a penetrating captive bolt due to their sizes[49].
Pigs in live transport truck

Pigs in Australian factory farms face incredible cruelty from birth to death, with minimal legal protections to prevent the worst suffering.

How You Can Make a Difference

Pigs used in farming face cruelty at all stages of their lives, but together we can make a difference. One important tool we can use to advocate for pigs is that of diet change. By reducing our consumption of animal-based products, and increasing consumption of plant-based products, we can make a drastic impact.

When making these changes, FOUR PAWS advocates for the use of the 3Rs principle: reducing consumption of animal-based products, refining our diet to choose products that have high animal welfare standards, and replacing animal-based products with plant-based products. Check out ‘The Rise of Plant-Based Diets’.

Download our 3Rs nutrition guide

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our work for pigs

Learn more


[1] FOUR PAWS [Accessed 9/11/2022] https://www.four-paws.org.au/campaigns-topics/animals/pig
 Australian Pork [Accessed 9/11/2022] https://australianpork.com.au/industry-facts#:~:text=There%20are%20roughly%202.4%20million%20pigs%20in%20Australia%20at%20any%20given%20time.
 Little Oak Sanctuary [Accessed 21/11/2022] https://www.littleoaksanctuary.org/learn-about-pigs
 Wellbeing International [9/11/2022] https://www.wellbeingintlstudiesrepository.org/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1000&context=mammal#:~:text=Studies%20of%20emotion%20in%20pigs,the%20emotional%20state%20of%20another
 International Journal of Comparative Psychology [Accessed 9/11/2022] https://escholarship.org/uc/item/8sx4s79c
 CNN [Accessed 16/11/2022] https://edition.cnn.com/2021/02/11/world/pigs-joystick-scli-intl-scn/index.html
 International Journal of Comparative Psychology [Accessed 9/11/2022] https://escholarship.org/uc/item/8sx4s79c 
 International Journal of Comparative Psychology [Accessed 9/11/2022] https://escholarship.org/uc/item/8sx4s79c
 The Independent [Accessed 9/11/2022] https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/pigs-intelligent-sentient-animal-drugs-testing-b2093536.html
[10] Australian Pork [Accessed 9/11/2022] https://australianpork.com.au/industry-facts#:~:text=There%20are%20roughly%202.4%20million%20pigs%20in%20Australia%20at%20any%20given%20time.
 [11] RSPCA [Accessed 9/11/2022] https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/how-are-pigs-farmed-in-australia
[12]Australian Pork [Accessed 9/11/2022] https://australianpork.com.au/industry-facts
 [13] CSIRO [Accessed 9/11/2022] https://www.publish.csiro.au/ebook/download/pdf/5698
[14] MDPI [Accessed 16/11/2022] https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2615/12/18/2437

[15] Australian Pork [Accessed 9/11/2022]

[16] RSPCA [Accessed 11/11/2022] https://www.rspca.org.au/take-action/pig-farming
 [17] FOUR PAWS [Accessed 16/11/2022] https://www.four-paws.org.au/campaigns-topics/topics/farm-animals/10-amazing-facts-about-pigs
[18] CSIRO [Accessed 11/11/2022] https://www.publish.csiro.au/ebook/download/pdf/5698
 [19] CSIRO [Accessed 11/11/2022] https://www.publish.csiro.au/ebook/download/pdf/5698
[20] RSPCA [Accessed 11/11/2022] https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/why-is-environmental-enrichment-important-for-pig-welfare/
[21] RSPCA [Accessed 11/11/2022] https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/why-is-wallowing-important-for-pig-welfare
[22] RSPCA [Accessed 16/11/2022] https://www.rspca.org.au/take-action/pig-farming

[23] ABC [Accessed 11/11/2022] https://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2022-03-18/japanese-encephalitis-spread-intense-pig-farming/100914836

[24] RSPCA [Accessed 16/11/2022] https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/what-are-the-animal-welfare-issues-associated-with-pig-production/

[25] CSIRO [Accessed 16/11/2022] https://www.publish.csiro.au/ebook/download/pdf/5698

[26] RSPCA [Accessed 16/11/2022] https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/what-are-the-animal-welfare-issues-associated-with-pig-production/

[27] Australian Pork [Accessed 16/11/2022] https://australianpork.com.au/about-pig-farming/housing

[28] RSPCA [Accessed 16/11/2022] https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/what-are-the-animal-welfare-issues-associated-with-pig-production/

[29] RSPCA [Accessed 16/11/2022] https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/what-are-the-animal-welfare-issues-associated-with-pig-production/

[30] Australian Pork [Accessed 16/11/2022] https://australianpork.com.au/about-pig-farming/housing
[31] The Guardian [Accessed 16/11/2022] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/sep/21/pigs-still-held-in-narrow-pens-industry-promised-to-ban-victorian-animal-justice-party-claims?amp;amp;amp
[32] Australian Pork [Accessed 16/11/2022] https://australianpork.com.au/about-pig-farming/housing
[33] https://animalsaustralia.org/latest-news/farrowing-crates-a-cycle-of-suffering-for-mother-pigs/
[34] RSPCA [Accessed 16/11/2022] https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/what-are-the-animal-welfare-issues-associated-with-sow-stalls-and-farrowing-crates/

[35] Animals Australia [Accessed 16/11/2022] https://animalsaustralia.org/latest-news/farrowing-crates-a-cycle-of-suffering-for-mother-pigs/
[36] Animals Australia [Accessed 16/11/2022] https://animalsaustralia.org/latest-news/invisible-cruelty-factory-farming/#pigs
[37] Australian Pork [Accessed 16/11/2022] https://australianpork.com.au/about-pig-farming/housing
 [38] Animals Australia [Accessed 16/11/2022] https://animalsaustralia.org/latest-news/farrowing-crates-a-cycle-of-suffering-for-mother-pigs/
[39] RSPCA [Accessed 16/11/2022] https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/what-are-the-animal-welfare-issues-associated-with-sow-stalls-and-farrowing-crates/
[40] RSPCA [Accessed 16/11/2022] https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/what-are-the-animal-welfare-issues-associated-with-pig-production/
[41] RSPCA [Accessed 16/11/2022] https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/what-are-some-of-the-painful-procedures-experienced-by-pigs-on-farm/
[42] CSIRO [Accessed 16/11/2022] https://www.publish.csiro.au/book/5698/
[43] Australian Pork [Accessed 9/11/2022] https://australianpork.com.au/about-pig-farming/stages-pork-production

[44] FOUR PAWS [Accessed 9/11/2022] https://www.four-paws.org.au/campaigns-topics/animals/pig

[45] Australian Pork [Accessed 9/11/2022] https://australianpork.com.au/about-pig-farming/stages-pork-production
[46] Australian Pork [9/11/2022] https://australianpork.com.au/about-pig-farming/stages-pork-production
[47] RSPCA [Accessed 9/11/2022] https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/how-are-pigs-farmed-in-australia/
 RSPCA [Accessed 9/11/2022] https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/how-are-pigs-farmed-in-australia/
[49] RSPCA [Accessed 9/11/2022] https://kb.rspca.org.au/knowledge-base/how-are-pigs-farmed-in-australia/
Isilay Kizilcik

Isilay Kizilcik

Former Supporter Relations Coordinator, FOUR PAWS Australia

Isilay is a member of the Supporter Relations Team at FOUR PAWS Australia, having joined in 2019 to help make the world a better place for animals.

She is passionate about animal welfare and protection, and has worked in this space for six years. She has also volunteered with various animal protection organisations.

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