Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Pig housing: gestation stalls


What if I told you that twice a day, I tie my four-year-old to a chair and leave her there for an hour?
 
No matter how she pleads or cries or protests, she has to be tied down. Some days I strap her to a chair for 9 hours or more.
 
Before you call Child Protective Services, think about a car seat. It is against the law for me to transport my small child anywhere without strapping her into a car seat. She may not like it, but its best for her.
 
Everyone understands the dangers of not using car seats. No one will argue that they are not needed to keep our children safe. People understand how dangerous car wrecks can be. We haven’t always used them (my parents weren’t strapped in car seats), but people now agree that they are needed to keep kids safe.



Kid in car seat
Happy kid... tied to a chair

People don’t know much about pig farming. 
 
Most people think of Wilbur or Babe when they think of pigs on farms. Cute little pink pigs that make smart-alecky remarks to the sheep. But, that’s not reality. Real pigs are much different.
 
  • Did you know that grown sows (momma pigs) can weigh as much as 500 pounds?
  • They are huge animals. They may stand 4 feet tall.
  • They can be very dangerous animals. Pig farmers can tell very scary stories about a pig hurting or even killing someone.
There has been a lot of news in social media and on the internet about gestation stalls, or maternity pens, used in the pork industry. Several food companies and restaurants have declared that they will be phased out in the next few years and some states have even passed legislation banning them.

Most people know very little about pork production and why gestation stalls are used. People see pictures and hear terrible stories about farmers ‘abusing’ pigs and think, “Wow, how can we let this happen?” The problem is that we are not hearing the whole story. So, I decided to write a post about them, to help explain.

What are gestation stalls?

Gestation stalls are small pens that farmers put sows (momma pigs) in while they are pregnant. They provide each pig with a specific amount of food and all the water she wants, but there is not a lot of room for her to move around. They can lie down, but not turn around. They are artificially inseminated (bred to the boar) in those pens and stay there until they are about to have their babies. Then they move to a different type of pen.



Pigs in Gestation Stalls
Photo courtesy of Standing Oaks Enterprises.


A friend of mine who is a pig farmer in Ohio sent me these pictures of pigs in gestation stalls on his farm, Standing Oaks Enterprises. You can check out his blog at Acorns for Thought.

Why do farmers use them?

First, they use them to protect the pigs from each other. Just like people, pigs pick on each other. If you have a group of pigs together in a pen, they will fight to establish a hierarchy, to determine who is the boss. In the case of sows, some will become ‘bully sows’ and will literally fight and pick on inferior sows until they are physically separated or one dies. These pigs stand waist-high and may weigh as much as 400 or even 500 pounds. A 200-lb man is no match for them. Fighting sows are very dangerous.

Second, farmers must control how much feed the pigs eat. Also like people, pregnant sows are very hungry. But, unlike most people, they don’t know to control how much they eat to keep from getting obese. If allowed to eat all they wanted, the pigs would be morbidly obese, they would shorten their lifespan, and it would be wasteful. If the sows were mixed, some sows would hog (no pun intended) all the feed and overeat, while others would starve. So keeping them separate allows the farmer to feed each pig exactly what she needs.
  



Gestation stalls with feeders
Photo courtesy of Standing Oaks Enterprises.

Another pic from Standing Oaks. You can see the pigs feed in bins above their stalls.

Since I've been working on this post, I participated in a radio show with a pig farmer from Missouri, Chris Chinn. She was asked about gestation stalls and had a couple of points I wanted to share. She said that her farm used to use group housing and that the bully sows ate too much and had big babies and trouble in labor. She also said that the weaker sows had small, unthrifty babies. When they switched to gestation stalls, they found that they used less medicine because the sows didn't injure one another fighting.

Right before the sow has her babies, the farmer will move her into a farrowing crate. These are pens that are large enough for the sow to stand up and lie down, but she has to do it slowly. Remember these sows can weigh as much as 500 pounds. Their piglets may only weigh 3 or 4 pounds. They can walk soon after they are born, but not very well. If the momma pig lies down too quickly, she could squish her babies.


Farrowing crate
This photo is from Flikr, used with permission
This is a picture of a sow with her babies in a farrowing crate. See how little they are.

Research shows that there are advantages and disadvantages of using gestation stalls. One study gave pigs the choice of remaining in a group pen or in a gestation stall and found that the pigs preferred to stay in the stalls most of the time. In a video of a farm in Indiana, the farmer has European-style gestation crates, where the pigs can choose to go in or out of the stalls. He says they stay in their stall over 90% of the time.

In response to all the pressure from food companies, some farmers have removed their gestation stalls and changed their barns to group housing. Others have installed European-style pens that give pigs a choice of where they can be.

Big changes in animal housing need to happen slowly. Don’t think that we can just ban stalls and walk away feeling good about our animal welfare practices. Pigs and people will suffer if we don’t find acceptable alternatives.


The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) put together a task force to address sow housing that included several vets and a representative from HSUS. The task force concluded that any sow housing systems had advantages and disadvantages, and that farmers and animal scientists should work together to retain the advantages of the current systems and improve on them.

I hope that veterinarians, farmers and food companies can work together to determine what is truly best for pigs. I don’t think anyone has an easy answer right now. Even the animal welfare experts say that there are no easy answers when it comes to housing pigs.

I think this quote from Dr. Temple Grandin is very meaningful, “Nature is cruel, but we don’t have to be.” She said it many times. Animals are cruel to each other. Farmers do their best to keep animals happy and healthy. Just like parents with car seats.

Here are a few more resources about gestation stalls and pig housing.

· A good Q and A about gestation stalls and their history.
· A nice video about modern hog farming, including gestation stalls.
· A good video from Humane Watch about pigs and maternity pens.
· The report from the AVMA task force on sow housing.









67 comments:

  1. Thanks for this thoughtful, insightful post, Janeal. It's a complex subject, and many people don't realize the unintended consequences, from the perspective of both the farmers and the animals, of making an arbitrary change to alternative sow housing systems.

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    1. Ed, Thanks for the nice comment.

      It is a complex topic.

      I hope it helps people think about it.

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    2. it is complex topic ... First, we do not have to breed and confine pigs because we do not HAVE TO eat pigs or other animals ... Second, vegan diet is the healthiest diet for humans .... Third, raising pigs at family and factory farms is one of the most environmentally damaging production as per United Nations report - 2006 - Livestock long shadow ..... spare animals from living tortures lives, go Vegan ... thanks .... Sinem

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    3. Pick the "pretty" hog farms out and show those that is fine. Go to some that aren't so "pretty" and see what they look like. Bias doesn't help the cause . We stopped eating pork becasue of the stalling here in Manitoba. They are tooo smalll. This isn't farming and we all know that. Other places in the world have banned it for a reason. Don't kid yourselves. it's all about the money with factory farming.....Why do you think it's called FACTORY??

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    4. We still do farming outside, and in all honesty meat quality is improved when pigs are indoors. Pigs are rooting around in the mud, and that increases the number of internal parasites that enter the meat. Pigs are also heiarchal animals, and if they aren't confined to stalls, the "lower gilt on the totem pole" wouldn't get any feed. If given the choice, gilts would spend 80% of their time in the stalls to get away from each other. Hope this clears up any misconceptions.

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  2. Replies
    1. A couple of facts about eating animals ..... First, We do not have to breed and confine pigs because we do not HAVE TO eat pigs or other animals ... Second, vegan diet is the healthiest diet for humans .... Third, raising pigs at family and factory farms is one of the most environmentally damaging production as per United Nations report - 2006 - Livestock long shadow ..... spare animals from living tortures lives, go Vegan ...

      Killing is Killing .. murder is murder ... pain is pain ... pigs are not things / objects ... i think we disagree with this very basic rights of pigs .... who are u to think you have the right to breed animals , kill them for your taste buts ???? get your facts straight before you spread the illusion of pigs want to be killed for you .. thanks, Si

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    2. We kill to eat. We kill to drink. The vegan kills perfectly innocent vegetables and thinks it is ok because the vegetable can't make noise. But vegetables react to sunlight, and rain, and other plants. We kill to eat. To function properly brain cells do best when the blood stream carries nutrients that include those from amino acids found in animal protein. Murder is murder . . . pain is pain, vegetables are living organisims just like pigs and vegans. Who are vegans to think they have the right to plant vegetables and then kill them for their taste buds???

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  3. Replies
    1. Killing is Killing .. murder is murder ... pain is pain ... pigs are not things / objects ... i think we disagree with this very basic rights of pigs .... who are u to think you have the right to breed animals , kill them for your taste buts ???? get your facts straight before you spread the illusion of pigs want to be killed for you .. thanks, Si

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  4. I had to think of my daughter in law. When my son first met her at 3ish, she was in the highchair for long periods. He fed her Cheerios. She was happy.
    Scott

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  5. This is an amazing post. I was wondering if you could email me a list of your resources if possible (if you didn't include all of them in your post already). I am in a college speech class right now and this topic would work for my speech I have to give in a couple of weeks. I have raised pigs on a small scale and am passionate about the pork industry but its always hard to listen to people who don't know the facts try and kill an industry. But I love how you got the right facts and are trying to teach the public the right facts. Thank You!!! My email is emullins93@gmail.com

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  6. This is an awsome post! Its great for someone to get the right facts out.I was wondering if you could email me a complete list of your sources. I'm thinking about doing this topic for a speech i have to give in my college class and you had some great information. If you can that would be great but if not thats fine! My email is emullins93@gmail.com. Thank You!!

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    1. Hi Erin ..

      A couple of facts about eating animals ..... First, We do not have to breed and confine pigs because we do not HAVE TO eat pigs or other animals ... Second, vegan diet is the healthiest diet for humans .... Third, raising pigs at family and factory farms is one of the most environmentally damaging production as per United Nations report - 2006 - Livestock long shadow ..... spare animals from living tortures lives, go Vegan ...

      Killing is Killing .. murder is murder ... pain is pain ... pigs are not things / objects ... i think we disagree with this very basic rights of pigs .... who are u to think you have the right to breed animals , kill them for your taste buts ???? get your facts straight before you spread the illusion of pigs want to be killed for you .. thanks, Si

      Delete
  7. Thank you for your insights on this issue and all meat in general. I will be following you closely and likely sharing widely your future posts. Keep up the great work from one mom to another! Alicia Rockwell

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    Replies
    1. Hi Alicia,

      A couple of facts about eating animals ..... First, We do not have to breed and confine pigs because we do not HAVE TO eat pigs or other animals ... Second, vegan diet is the healthiest diet for humans .... Third, raising pigs at family and factory farms is one of the most environmentally damaging production as per United Nations report - 2006 - Livestock long shadow ..... spare animals from living tortures lives, go Vegan ...

      Killing is Killing .. murder is murder ... pain is pain ... pigs are not things / objects ... i think we disagree with this very basic rights of pigs .... who are u to think you have the right to breed animals , kill them for your taste buts ???? get your facts straight before you spread the illusion of pigs want to be killed for you .. thanks, Si

      Delete
  8. What a thoughtful, insightful post! It really is important for consumers to understand producers' rational behind their production methods. Now excuse me while I go fry up some bacon ;)

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    1. Hi Jen

      A couple of facts about eating animals ..... First, We do not have to breed and confine pigs because we do not HAVE TO eat pigs or other animals ... Second, vegan diet is the healthiest diet for humans .... Third, raising pigs at family and factory farms is one of the most environmentally damaging production as per United Nations report - 2006 - Livestock long shadow ..... spare animals from living tortures lives, go Vegan ...

      Killing is Killing .. murder is murder ... pain is pain ... pigs are not things / objects ... i think we disagree with this very basic rights of pigs .... who are u to think you have the right to breed animals , kill them for your taste buts ???? get your facts straight before you spread the illusion of pigs want to be killed for you .. thanks, Si

      Delete
  9. This is great! It's nice to have someone who is actually knowledgeable in the area provide input. Your final quote is wonderful. Really, most domestic animals have a better life than they ever would in the wild.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Edenhills,

      A couple of facts about eating animals ..... First, We do not have to breed and confine pigs because we do not HAVE TO eat pigs or other animals ... Second, vegan diet is the healthiest diet for humans .... Third, raising pigs at family and factory farms is one of the most environmentally damaging production as per United Nations report - 2006 - Livestock long shadow ..... spare animals from living tortures lives, go Vegan ...

      Killing is Killing .. murder is murder ... pain is pain ... pigs are not things / objects ... i think we disagree with this very basic rights of pigs .... who are u to think you have the right to breed animals , kill them for your taste buts ???? get your facts straight before you spread the illusion of pigs want to be killed for you .. thanks, Si

      Delete
  10. Thanks for all the nice comments!

    Janeal

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  11. I have a question. Is this just how Pigs are farmed in the USA, because I am originally from England (been here in the US for 12 months), and I have seen several pig farms in the UK over the years, but never seen anything like this.
    Yes I have seen pregnant sows separated from other pregnant sows, but their individual pens are big things (maybe 9ft x 9ft), allowing the sow real freedom of movement. She stays in that pen throughout pregnancy and also after the birth of the piglets.

    I ended up in an actual argument with a lady here in the US over what constitutes a free range chicken and free range eggs, because in the UK the laws are very different. In the UK to be classed as free range the birds must have something like 7sqft minimum of space and they must be able to have free movement between indoors and outdoors for at least 8 hrs a day. Chicken farms in the UK have acres upon acres of grassland around their chicken sheds that are planted with small trees and bushes to provide shelter for a chicken while outdoors, all in the name of being 'free range'. I was told that being classed as free range here in the US means they only need room to actually turn around.

    Does this mean that Pig farms here are not free range and are more of the 'battery' design?
    I find the differences between farming techniques in the 2 countries fascinating.

    Have a great day
    Lou :-)

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    1. Thanks for the question, Lou.

      I've never been to a pig farm in the UK, so I don't know if they use gestation stalls. Most pigs in the US are housed indoors, regardless of wether or not the farmers choose to use gestation stalls. Even pigs that are group-housed don't spend time outside.

      As far as free-range chickens go, the USDA states that to label chicken 'free-range,' the farmer must demonstrate that the chickens had access to the outside. http://www.fsis.usda.gov/FACTSheets/Meat_&_Poultry_Labeling_Terms/index.asp#4

      Those are the minimum requirements according to USDA. Companies may choose to allow chickens much more than just access. It would depend on their situation. So, the lady you were talking to may have been talking about a specific company.

      I've never herd the term 'battery' associated with pigs, but raising pigs indoors in the standard for the majority of pigs in the US. Free-range or outdoor pig farms would be more of a niche market and the products from them would be very costly.

      Thanks for the comment,
      Janeal

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    2. Another "answer" to may of the problems of large-scale hog-raising is simply smaller scale farms. Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms in Virginia raises all his livestock on open pasture. But his stuff is more expensive than the typical grocery store. Some of that is due to scale, but it's also due to government regulations that are written to regulate large-scale operations. (Also they are often written BY large-scale operators who have the money to buy politicians).

      In this video, he explains why his bacon costs $9 a pound: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUe8SNvple4

      Here is another video about his operation. Jump to the 21 minute mark to see how his hogs are raised. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYWYU5V8JOo

      Of course, the "local food" movement will not change our food supply overnight. And I do not post this as a condemnation of large operations. I appreciate very much that folks like the author of this blog are genuinely concerned about the welfare of these animals that so graciously feed our hungry bellies!

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    3. How much do you want to pay for your bacon?

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  12. So this is an explanation of why the gestation pens and desperation but why is still ok to confine an animal in a small space all their lives?...I bet some of these never set foot in a pasture or see daylight....just so you can have bacon.....I understand you want to maximize your yield....if an animal is giving their life for you to consume them....shouldn't they at least lead a somewhat healthy and humane life? pigs are highly intelligent....more than dogs...Factory farming is the worst..and that is what your pictures depict.....no matter what the reasoning...or how clean these picture look....it is still cruel..........

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    1. It is wise to question the way things are done, no matter the industry. However, if your worry is that these swine do not have healthy or humane lives, then you are mistaken. Commercial or factory or confinement farming, whatever you prefer to call it, has led to amazing improvements in swine health. Many of the diseases seen less than 50 years ago when most hogs were raised "free-range" and outside have been all but eradicated. The only time they are spoken of is when poor veterinary students, like myself, have to study for board exams. And we get shown old, black and white photos from the 50s and 60s of sick, skinny, unhappy pigs. Or when professors warn us to be on the lookout for the re-emergence of these diseases by the renewed trend to raise hogs "free-range". As stated in the blog, injuries from other pigs are decreased and as a result the medicine used in treating them. As far as a meat source, they are one of the safest meats available for human consumption with possibly the exception being of poultry raised in confinement. That includes any "free-range" or wild animal.

      As to these conditions being inhumane, how do we define humane? They have food, water, shelter, company, no natural predators to worry about, they are disease and parasite free, have access to medical care, and are happy animals. These animals live better lives than most humans. Their situation can best be compared to people who live in large cities. They work all day in tiny office space and go home to tiny apartments. These people are happy moving from box to box and living in a confined, concrete space with millions of other people. Some would consider this wrong or cruel, but for those people its not.

      Just because you do not agree with the way something is done does not make it wrong or cruel. It may just be the best option for now. And who would want to see a little 5 lb piglet squished by its 500lb momma? That is the real cruelty.

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    2. very well said ... thanks Karylee.... please see my posts below ...

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  13. Thanks for this post. I have on countless occasions placed my child in a car seat sans car for his safety and my sanity. He was perfectly content! Excellent way to explain it!

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    1. OMG are you for real. Putting a child in a car seat for a short amount of time is NOTHING like confining a sow basically for her entire life..... Lets confine your child for even a whole day and listen to the screams of protest.... Unbelievable!

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    2. very well said JJ ... and these people say, they care about animal welfare ... what a twisted , perverted mind / psyche !!! .... just get the facts straight, you HATE pigs that is why you make such illogical comparisons .... unbelievable !!!! ... shame on you, AUTHOR ...

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    3. Livestock producers do not hate their animals. On the contrary, we have the utmost passion and respect for them. I personally believe cows are the most beautiful thing on this earth, and they were put here to be managed responsibly and consumed by people. Most producers would be appalled and enraged at extreme acts of animal mistreatment. Dairy Cattle probably have more personal care than most humans ever will. Let livestock producers do our job the best way we know how, we are the experts and radicals like you, Si, are not!

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  14. I too strapped all 5 of my kids to car seats but wouldn't dream of leaving them strapped in for hours day after day. There has got to be a better way.

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    1. Yes, Pat, but do your children weigh 500 lbs apiece and have aggressive natures that lead them to EAT one another? For all that pigs are intelligent, they are also belligerent. The analogy is not how long the kids are in those seats, the analogy is that we force our children to do things they do not like in the name of SAFETY. If we are willing to do this to those who will grow up to become our leaders, why is it so wrong to do the same to animals that are, essentially, eventual food? No one deliberately chooses to be cruel to animals, but there is a great deal of anger and fault finding with the way pigs are housed: among people *who know nothing about hogs.* Pig farmers know that when you have a group of 30 hogs in a group pen, animals will be injured. Which is worse? It is easier to anthropomorphize about Wilbur or Babe; but what about the smaller, weaker hogs that get bullied off the food, or injured by bully sows? Do we have no sympathy for their situation? Is it worse to confine them, to prevent injuries, or let them be 'free' to 'live more naturally' even if it results in injuries and death for a significant percentage? Our grandparents knew that you don't let the kids near the hog pens because they are DANGEROUS. And they are dangerous to one another too.

      Living 'more natural' sounds good on its face, but the 'natural' life for a wild hog is constant fighting with one another over resources, without the benefit of a nice vet to stitch you up; so you lay in the forest and maybe die of your injuries from the last fight, or from sepsis brought on by lack of antibiotics. 'Natural' living means constant vigilance against predators. Fear and stress may not be comfortable but they keep you alive, for a while. But eventually, you will become ill or injured, and if the other hogs don't kill you and eat you, other predators will. Your last moments will be spent in violent assault, as you are torn to bits and eaten, maybe by your herdmates. Nature is NOT a Disney movie. For all those who think that the life of a 'factory farmed' hog is so awful, the simple fact is that 'real life' is no picnic either. More people need to understand these realities. The fact is, animals that are raised for food are going to die to provide it. Their life up until they die should not be unduly harsh, but it is not going to somehow make it better if we give them all a 5 acre room and a flat screen TV; the outcome is the same. There is a middle ground, but the bottom line is that when you muck about with systems set in place to provide the greatest number of animals with the most *efficient* housing and rearing, in the interest of 'enriching their lives,' you talk of increasing the cost to produce that meat, which of course means the price of that meat goes up, and the end result is PEOPLE going hungry. Some of us have issues with that part of the scene too. There is a difference between a sterile environment(meaning devoid of enrichment) and a cruel one. It is not indifference, it is practicality. Realities are sometimes harsh, but that does not make them less real.

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    2. Animals have looked after themselves well enough without our "help".... This has NOTHING to do with the welfare of the animal, it is simply getting the most by using the least. None of you give a toss about the "welfare" of the animal. It's purely the $ value.

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  15. Karylee, I understand your concerns on allowing pigs (as well as all animals) live a healthy and humane life and be allowed to wander outdoors into their "natural" habitat. My father is a hog farmer. I worked with him and I also worked with a hog farm that raised pigs outdoors. Looking at the financial aspect first, raising animals outdoors requires much more labor and time and for a farmer to do that would require either higher prices on their products or working for barely any money at all. Also, if animals are able to live outdoors, that takes away land used for field crops as well as the ability for our human race to develop it for our own needs. Pigs are also very destructive in their natural habits. They are rooting animals and cause severe erosion to the ground since they will constantly be rooting up the ground. Also, my experience with working with outdoor hogs has made me see that their health and physical well being is at a higher risk while outdoors, forcing the farmers to have to treat them with more antibiotics, culling (sending them to the butcher) breeding animals earlier due to hurt legs etc.from the outdoor conditions. Again I understand your concern, and I do believe there may be better ways of raising all animals, but until someone is able to go onto a farm, work with the animals and see how things are done, why they are done, I do not think that those who are on the outside should be the ones creating guidelines or laws to how things are done. The current practices are done both for the benefit of the farmer as well as the animal.

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  16. Very informative post! I've been around dairy all of my life and never had much contact with pigs, so I learned some great points from your article. I also think it's great that you back up your reasoning with logic and photos of why these pens are necessary to show others. When the public criticizes different ag practices, it's easy for us to be so emotionally attached to the subject that we immediately get defensive and don't lay it out so they can try to understand why it is important. This also shows consumers that not all farmers are running the mistreatment factory farms they'll see on the news. Great post!

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    1. Hi Jeannette,

      it is very sad that you still want to believe in illusion and lies of people who make money $$$$$$ from killing animals .... A couple of facts about eating animals ..... First, We do not have to breed and confine pigs because we do not HAVE TO eat pigs or other animals ... Second, vegan diet is the healthiest diet for humans .... Third, raising pigs at family and factory farms is one of the most environmentally damaging production as per United Nations report - 2006 - Livestock long shadow ..... spare animals from living tortures lives, go Vegan ...

      Killing is Killing .. murder is murder ... pain is pain ... pigs are not things / objects ... i think we disagree with this very basic rights of pigs .... who are u to think you have the right to breed animals , kill them for your taste buts ???? get your facts straight before you spread the illusion of pigs want to be killed for you .. thanks, Si

      Delete
    2. Hi Si,
      I can appreciate your differing opinion, but I musst disagree with your logic. There are many other uses for pigs besides food (see this publication from Oklahoma State University: http://oklahoma4h.okstate.edu/aitc/lessons/extras/facts/swine.html)

      Do you know someone with diabetes? Insulin produced by a pig may be saving their life.

      Pig heart valves can be used to replace damaged human valves because their size, structure and function are anatomically similar to a human's.

      Concerning your views of going Vegan, it is an interesting fact pointed out in this article (http://www.care2.com/causes/former-vegans-explain-why-they-eat-meat.html) that animal production is still essential in being able to produce vegetable crops. "her study of ecologically-based farming showed her how essential animals are to sustainable farms as they “increase soil fertility, contribute to pest and weed control, and convert vegetation that’s inedible to humans, and growing on marginal, uncultivated land, into food.”
      Lastly, check out this article: http://www.npr.org/2010/08/02/128849908/food-for-thought-meat-based-diet-made-us-smarter.

      And you spelled my name wrong :)

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  17. This explains why the pigs are kept in separate pens (and with separate access to food), but it doesn't explain why the pregnant pigs aren't allowed enough space to turn around. Is there some reason other than farmers wanting to make increased profit, by packing more pigs into a smaller space?

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    1. Its a safety feature for the piglets. The pens are large enough so the sow can lie down and move around, but she has to do it slowly. If she had enough space to turn around, she would also be able to lie down too fast for her piglets to move out of the way. And momma pig is too big to notice if she accidentally sits on her baby. And unlike human mommas, she's not constantly keeping track of where and how many babies she has. There's no way to tell if she minds facing the same direction all the time. We dont swap our tv and couch around just because were tired of facing the same direction because we dont care, so why should she?

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    2. Totally unbelievable!, this whole discussion has been "Disneyfied" all pink and fluffy, birds singing and happy happy Momma pig and piglets.... Wake up! I don't know what farm these pictures came from but it certainly is NOT the norm. $$$ is all the meat and livestock industry cares about, and they are pulling all stops now to convince the public that "intensive" farming is sooo good and all for the welfare of the animal. They know that their dirty little secrets are out and the public are revolting..... The truth will certainly prevail.

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    3. JJ I have just one question for you. What is your career choice? The reason why I am asking is because my family has been raising hogs since my great grandpa started back in the 1930s. No farmers who are trying to make a dollar would purposely do something to screw up their investment. I feel that people who have never been around it and have never dealt with it should have an opinion. I mean am I telling you what is right and wrong in your career choice. Also, I understand there is a niche market out there for free range hogs/pigs and if someone chooses to go into that market good for them there is value in that product for those who have their views about free range hogs, but if you want everyone to do it then face your food cost will go up. Let me guess that you probably are complaining about the price of food. So the way I see it there are tradeoffs in this whole issue, but think about it if you eat pork or meat products we are feeding you and your family so don't bite the hand that feeds you.

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    4. JR ..... we are vegans ... so you do not to worry to feed us because we do not support killing and eating animals ... second , many farmers later became vegan because they are the ones seeing the cruelty to the animals ! ... hope you one day will realize your murder acts and become vegan ! ... thanks , Si

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  18. HSUS is an EVIL organization. The president of the HSUS is a radical vegan who intends to stop all meat production in this country, and eventually, around the globe. Google "Protect the Harvest" and find out how we fight together to stop these radical organizations plan to destroy modern farms. Thanks for the great information.

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  19. Found this thru FB & will certainly share, I believe this is my first blog that I've ever read or commented back to, when I first started reading, I thought it was going to be one of those in favor of PETA, quite the opposite! Thank you. Back to the UK person's comment, PETA designates what they can/can't use now in the UK & parts of Europe, so that might be why the confusion vs what we can still do in parts of the US, but don't think for 1 minute that PETA isn't working to make all of our farms confinement free, gestation crate/farrowing stall free, etc...Someone wrote asking why farming can't be like it was years ago, SPACE. There are more people who now live where those farms used to be, I am a small dairy farmer, trying to hang onto my small purebred registered Ayrshire herd, trying to buck the system of the confinement units, such as Fair Oaks Dairy Farms, home to over 30,000 cows in northern IN. My cows are not confined to a barn, if they want to lay outside in the snow or driving rain, that is their choice, not mine. I provide a loafing area for those who prefer not to lay outside. I know a bit about the swine industry having worked on the regulatory side for 25 years prior to milking my cows. Happy animals make for Healthy animals, we don't medicate, just to be doing it, that is costly, we're doing it to make them better if they are sick, much like a person for their child. As you stated, most people do not know that a mamma sow could kill or eat her own piglets, hence, the farrowing crates, but there are swine producers who do raise pigs in a natural setting, most are small & may be doing it for their kids to show in 4H or raising swine to be sold for 4H, or somebody like Gregg Gunthrop, he started laughing all the way to the bank several years ago. He found the niche for his pasture pigs, pork chops now being served in elite restaurants.

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  20. So, your salary is dependent on the meat industry and you'll say anything to defend it?? I grew up on a farm and have dealt with all kinds of animals, pigs included. Spare them a thought next time you're stuck in an elevator for a few minutes - think about what it must feel like to be trapped inside one of those farrowing crates for your entire life. It doesn't take a "PhD in meat science" to know that it must suck. As for the stories about pig aggression - hardly surprising if all they know about humans is castration and tail docking without anaesthetic, ear tag insertion without anaesthetic and liberal use of electric prodders. And that's the legal stuff - we're not even talking about cruelty extreme enough to be breaking the law (yes, the stuff that's so bad that places like Idaho are passing "ag gag" laws making it a criminal offence to expose animal abuse on farms).

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    1. The "ag gag" laws make entering an ag facility under false pretenses or using false information to gain access a crime, NOT reporting abuse. Any producer will tell you that they want to know about any abuse going on at their farms as no one wants that.

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    2. FYI - "ag gag" laws DO MAKE it a criminal offence to expose animal abuse on farms !!!!

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  21. Nature is cruel but we don't have to be? What is so natural about breeding animals in confinement?

    Children get strapped into a car seat? Adults strap themselves into their car seat as well but they are not raped and kept their throughout thrir pregnancyonly to have their newborn stolen after three weeks, then raped again....Comparing sow stalls to strapping your children in a car seat is quite ridiculous.

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  22. We could just eat plants. That would solve all these problems. This meat is not good for you anyway.

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  23. How on earth can you draw a comparison between a child in a car-seat and a sow in a crate.. Ah, well, I guess if it helps you sleep at night. Look up "ractopamine", and tell me how wonderfully pigs have it, on the factory farm.
    There is no animal welfare. We refuse to pay for it.
    I stopped eating pork years ago, why? It tastes like it was raised. Horribly.

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  24. Temple Grandin also said that putting a pig in a stall is like committing a human to a life strapped in an airline seat. And how about the arthritis, the lameness, the outrageous incidence of UTIs (because the pigs don't drink enough water -- because they don't get any exercise). All that aside, the bottom line is that consumers can see for themselves how cruel and confining the stalls are, and are demanding that grocery retailers, restaurants and the like get them out of their supply chains. So by all means, keep up with the "down on the farm" propaganda; this is a losing battle.

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  25. You know what? All of your kids can get along quite well never eating pork. So, strap them in their car seats when you go for a ride, let them out when you aren't driving, love on them and care for them and teach them that it is good to have compassion and empathy and care for other living beings too.

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    1. very well said ... thanks for your posts !!! ...

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  26. All of you complaining about crates...please watch the video she posted from the Indiana hog farmer. The pigs PREFER to stay in the crates the vast majority of the time. Anthropomorphism: attribution of human characteristics to a non-human object. You are not a pig, you have never been on a farm, and you have no idea what you are talking about, so in what wild stretch of imagination do you think you can tell me how to do MY job?!? If you have some moral objection to eating meat, then don't eat it. Simple as that. I'm so sick of these grossly misinformed people that saw some PETA video and now think there are some sort of swine reproductive specialist. We rape the sows, really? How absurd. They serve a purpose, to fulfill the demand for meat. If you had no demand for meat, what do you think will happen to all these animals? They will be destroyed, because no one wants to feed millions of aggressive, destructive animals if there is nothing to gain from it financially. And you are correct in saying that farmers are concerned with cost. That does not mean they mistreat their animals. Happy, healthy animals are more productive, and thus more profitable. Why would someone purposely abuse something that they depend on for their livelyhood? Fair Oaks Farm is opening a confinement hog farming operation that you can tour in 2013. Go visit and see how things are done before spewing a fountain of misinformation.

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    1. Killing is Killing .. murder is murder ... pain is pain ... pigs are not things / objects ... i think we disagree with this very basic rights of pigs .... who are u to think you have the right to breed animals , kill them for your taste buts ???? get your facts straight before you spread the illusion of pigs want to be killed for you .. thanks, Si

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  27. A couple of facts about eating animals ..... First, We do not have to breed and confine pigs because we do not HAVE TO eat pigs or other animals ... Second, vegan diet is the healthiest diet for humans .... Third, raising pigs at family and factory farms is one of the most environmentally damaging production as per United Nations report - 2006 - Livestock long shadow ..... spare animals from living tortures lives, go Vegan ... thanks .... Sinem

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    1. You don't want to eat meat and I don't want to be a plant eater. Our bodies are made to consume meat so I will continue to do so.

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  28. Have any of you even been to a hog farm or is all this "cruelty" something you read on the internet? Plain and simple: the sows are just fine in the confined area and prefer them over the threats that come along with group housing. If you're so concerned with them leading happy lives, aren't we doing what they want?? If we enact legislation to require group housing in all hog farms, the results will only be inflicting unnecessary pain on sows and piglets from other sows. Now how does that make sense? Oh and good ating meat. That will never happen. Your posts are just differences of opinions and not based on any facts whatsoever. Just because you disagree with something, doesn't mean it's wrong.

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  29. Hi there Si,

    Seems like you have strong vegan beliefs. That's good that you have passion for your beliefs and you are entitled to your opinion. Humans are omnivores by nature complete with canine teeth for tearing into meat. So, naturally, the vast majority of the world does not share your beliefs and DOES eat meat even though you are correct in saying that we don't HAVE to. Can you be a vegan? Sure, knock yourself out. Are you going to convince the rest of the world to follow in your footsteps? Not in your life. Just as you are entitled to choose to be vegan, I am entitled to choose to eat meat. I also choose to produce meat as my career, and I'm as passionate about the pork industry as you are about veganism. What I don't appreciate, are people like you trying to force your views on others, while people like me are not trying to force you to eat meat. I am also not appearing at your place of work (if you are even employed) and telling you how to do your job. I have been raising high quality, healthy pork for over 20 years, so I would like to think I am an expert on the matter. You, on the other hand, probably found your information on some propaganda-driven website. I am a farmer, and yes, I still eat meat because I do not see any cruelty happening. Our pigs are perfectly content in their environment and I work very hard to keep it that way. Thanks Si. Enjoy that soy burger, I'm going to go cook ribs.

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  30. Si, you sound like a broken record. And a very ignorant one at that. Repeating something 100x will not make it any more true.

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  31. I currently work for one of the largest hog producers in the southeast. The unit that I am employed with was the world leader in group gestation housing. Other producers in the industry who have now swapped to group housing followed our lead. We did this because the market demands it, not because it is right. There are pros and cons to group housing and gestation crates alike. I see the cons of group housing on a day by day basis. The sows fight constantly. This fighting causes some to be lame and they are no longer productive at that point. Some sows also farrow (give birth) prematurely. When a sow gives birth in a group station the piglets stand little to no chance of survival. If we are able to get the piglets to a nurse sow then they are likely to live, but typically they are trampled by the 30+ sows in the station before we even know that the one has farrowed. Group housing is also very dangerous for the employees. I have been slammed against a wall on numerous occasions, bitten, knocked down, etc. Gestation stalls prevent these issues. I also do not feel as if typical gestation stalls are the answer. My idea is to use free access crates (these are utilized by another large producer that I am familiar with). The free-access system is one in which sows each have their own crate, but they can walk in and out as they please. In this situation, a sow who is being "bullied" or farrowing early can go into her crate to protect herself and her piglets. This system is very expensive, but I think it is the way to go.

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  32. Hello Janeal! I'm an Animal Science student at Penn State and I love your blog!I'd really like to see some more posts on animal welfare like this one. I took a great welfare class last semester and it really opened my eyes to why farmers have a lot of the practices they do today. Chicken housing/handling would be a great topic or maybe livestock trucking regulations (I got to visit MH Eby's a trailer manufacturing plant and got to see all the fine details put into creating safe, functional trailers for cattle, sheep and pigs.). Thanks!

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  33. I know this is an old post, but I just discovered your blog. Love it! I actually grew up on a pig farm, and using gestation stalls and farrowing crates was a common practice. Thank you for sharing this information so that others can understand. Using these stalls and crates allowed more of our animals to live and thrive for showing, breeding and later market. Once again, thank you.

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