Animals Have Rights

The Realities Of Pig Farming

Pigs are highly intelligent animals and many experts believe that their intelligence is equal to, or greater than, that of dogs. As well as intelligence they have sensitivity to their living conditions. Like us, they need food, shelter, exercise, stimulation and love.

One pig who has been taken into a home is the famous pig, "Esther". She lives in Canada with two humans who adopted her and then became vegans because of their love for her. To view this loving tribute to the life of "Esther the Wonder Pig" and her human companions, please see the following video:

Esther the Wonder Pig

But alongside this moving story of compassion there are hundreds of factory farms in the United States that are turning over 100 million pigs into bacon and ham each year. How can they do this when each one of these sensitive animals is an Esther with the capacity to love, feel, and give?

There is an effort in the agricultural business to portray themselves as family farmers like the farm described in Charlotte's Web, with sunny outdoor conditions for the animals and fields of green grass. If you look on the containers for butter and milk and you will see these happy pictures. However, this is a purposely created and false illusion. Individually owned farms, known as "family farms", produce a small percentage of food animals such as cows, pigs and chickens. Most come from factory farms which are large, corporately-owned industrialized operations that raise billions of animals each year to sell for slaughter.

On most factory farms, mother pigs spend the majority of their lives in "gestation crates" approximately 7 feet by 2 feet - too small for them even to turn around. Internationally acclaimed professor Temple Grandin of Colorado State University states that "...basically you're asking a sow to live in an airline seat". A few states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon and Rhode Island) have banned these crates but the majority of states still allow them.

esther the wonder pig art Esther the Wonder Pig by Janet Hastings

At just two to three weeks old, piglets are removed from their mothers and placed in large, windowless sheds without fresh air, sunlight or outdoor access.Then this cycle is repeated for several years until the sows can no longer produce and are sent to slaughter. What kind of life is this?

Europe is far ahead of the United States in its treatment of pigs and other farmed animals. The European Union has passed what are known as the "Five Freedoms" for farm animals:

Freedom from hunger and thirst - access to fresh water and a diet for full health and vigor.
Freedom from discomfort - an appropriate environment with shelter and a comfortable rest area.
Freedom from pain, injury and disease - prevention or rapid treatment.
Freedom to express normal behavior - adequate space and facilities, company of the animal's own kind.
Freedom from fear and distress - conditions and treatment which avoid mental sufferings.

Why can't we do that here? It is commonplace for farm associations to deride suggestions from people who haven't been raised in farming communities. How can you know what it's really like, they ask. In return I ask this question: if factory farmers are so anxious to have the "real" picture conveyed, why are they so resistant to letting us know what's going on in their premises? Why are there laws in eight states, known as "Ag-gag laws"* and strongly supported by the pork producers, to ban the taking of pictures on their premises if there is no cruelty?

In this story I have described love and cruelty, two opposites that exist in our treatment of pigs. Which will you choose?

For more on this subject, please consult the following websites:

Second, support bills at the local, state and federal level which would limit antibiotic use to sick animals. Write or call your legislators and tell them that you support such bills.- Larry

For a deeper analysis of this critical issue, please see the following websites:

Factory Farms and Family Farms Wikipedia on Gestation Crates Pigs On Factory Farms / ASPCA European Treatment of Farm Animals Vegetarian Alternatives

My essay on these laws