May 14, 2007
Pigs are intelligent, highly social animals, yet many sows (female pigs) are treated as piglet-producing units at factory farms that use intensive confinement systems. These sows suffer through rapid cycles of impregnation, giving birth, and nursing. During their four-month pregnancies, many are kept in “gestation crates,” individual metal stalls only 2 feet (0.6 meters) wide by 7 feet (2.1 meters) long. These crates are so small the animals can’t even turn around. Shortly before giving birth, they are moved into similarly restrictive “farrowing crates.”
Crated sows aren’t able to engage in important natural behaviors, such as rooting, foraging, nest-building, grazing, wallowing, and practicing social behaviors. As a result of the intensive confinement, sows suffer psychological stress as well as a number of physical harms, including urinary infections, weakened bones, overgrown hooves, and lameness.