Pigs

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The facts

Around 95% of all pork products produced in Australia come from pigs raised in intensive farming systems. These pigs spend their lives in concrete pens inside a shed. When free to roam, pigs will spend their days foraging for food, exploring their environment, rooting and nesting. Intensive farming systems prevent pigs from carrying out these natural behaviours.

Breeding sows (female pigs used to produce piglets) are confined in sow stalls for part and sometimes all of their 16 week pregnancy. Some sows are confined in sow stalls for most of their adult lives. A sow stall is a 2 metre by 0.6 metre metal-barred crate with a concrete floor. There is just enough space for the sow to stand up in, however she cannot turn around and can only take a short step forward or back.

Once she has given birth, the sow and her piglets are transferred to a farrowing crate. Farrowing crates are smaller than sow stalls and almost completely prohibit any movement by the pigs.

Pigs raised in intensive systems are subject to mutilations such as tail docking, teeth clipping and surgical castration, without the use of anaesthesia.

Experts in animal welfare and behaviour consider pigs to be highly social animals who enjoy and seek out close contact with other pigs.¹

 

“…In 2010, Tasmania banned the use of sow stalls from 2017. Coles announced it will only stock pork products from farms which do not use sow stalls from 2014 & Australian Pork Limited said that its farmers had voted to voluntarily phase out sow stalls by 2017…”

 

“What are the alternatives?”

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The facts

There is no legally binding definition for the term free range in Australia so it is difficult to define exactly how free range pork is produced. There are several accreditation schemes that set their own standards for free range pig farming. Accredited producers must comply with the standards in order to carry the logo or stamp of the particular scheme. Regular audits are carried out to ensure compliance.

At present only around 5% of pork products labeled free range are from accredited farms. This is because demand for free range pork products is high and producers see no additional benefits in becoming accredited. The Humane Choice label (run by Humane Society International) and the RSPCA run schemes which accredit free range pig farms in Australia. According to these standards, free range pigs are:

    • Born and raised with free access to the outdoors, as well as huts or other forms of housing for shelter
    • Not confined to sow stalls or farrowing crates
    • Not subject to mutilations, such as teeth clipping, tail docking and nose ringing
    • Not fed hormones, growth promoters or antibiotics (except for therapeutic reasons)

 

…”The RSPCA accredits farms that raise pigs using free range, combination and indoor farming methods. The RSPCA Paw of Approval does not mean that pigs have been raised in a free range environment. However, it does mean that even for pigs raised indoors, higher standards of animal welfare have been followed when compared to conventional intensive systems… “

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The facts

Bred free range/combination pork comes from pigs that are born in a free-range environment but are subsequently raised indoors. These pigs may be raised in large open sheds with straw bedding (known as ecoshelters) or in small pens on concrete floors as in intensive pig farming systems. Housing design and stocking density must allow enough space for exercise, exploration and social behaviour and pigs must have access to litter/bedding of an appropriate material. Sow stalls and farrowing crates are not permitted and neither are mutilations, such as teeth clipping and tail docking.

At present, the RSPCA is the only organisation that sets standards for bred free range/combination pork.

 

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The facts

Organic food is grown and processed without the use of synthetic chemicals, fertilisers, or genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and with a focus on environmentally sustainable practices. Certified organic produce that carries the stamp or logo of one of the seven Australian Accredited Organic Certifiers has met the organic standards (see below) and is audited annually to ensure compliance with these standards.

Pigs raised within certified organic farming systems must be:

      • Able to roam and graze freely
      • Able to perform their natural behaviours
      • Fed certified organic feeds
      • Free from growth hormones or antibiotics
      • Free from mutilations, such as teeth clipping and tail docking

 

…So by definition, organic pork is free range. Sow stalls and farrowing crates are prohibited…

See following table for a comparison of the different farming systems and standards:

Conventional
Organic
Humane Choice
RSPCA
(indoor)
RSPCA
(outdoor)
RSPCA
(combination)
Access to outdoors
No
Yes
Yes
No
Yes
See below*
Sow stalls/Farrowing crates used
Yes
No
No
No
No
No
Allow mutilations (tail docking, nose ringing, teeth clipping)
Yes
No
No
No
No
No
Systematic use of antibiotics prohibited?
No
Yes
Yes
See below**
See below**
See below**
Use of growth promoters prohibited?
No
Yes
Yes
No
No
No

*Breeding pigs (sows and boars) have access to a range or outdoor area and growing pigs are kept indoors.

**Antibiotics must only be administered under veterinary advice. Where it is considered necessary to use antibiotics for prophylactic purposes, RSPCA Australia must be notified.

 

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Highest animal welfare choices:

  • Accredited free range and organic pork products
  • Look for the following logos:

[image link=”http://consumewithcare.org/wp-content/themes/breeze/images/design/pigs/most_ethical_choices_PIGS.png” lightbox=”false” rounded=”all” width=”730px” alt=”Most Ethical Choices”/]

Only around 5% of free range pork products are currently accredited. For products labeled free range that are not accredited, speak to the retailer or producer directly to find out about farming methods used. Questions you can ask the retailer/producer include:
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  • Are the pigs free to roam outdoors?
  • Are the pigs ever confined in sow stalls or farrowing crates?
  • Are the pigs subject to mutilations, such as tail docking, teeth clipping or nose ringing?
  • Are male pigs castrated without the use of anaesthesia?

 

Next best:

  • Accredited bred free range/combination pork or anything carrying the RSPCA Paw of Approval logo
  • Look for the following logo:

Print

 

 

 

 

 

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  • Certified organic and certified free range pork can be quite hard to find. Some supermarkets do carry a limited range
  • Specialty health food stores
  • Organic butchers and butchers specializing in free range meats
  • Farmers’ markets: see farmersmarkets.org.au to find markets in your local area
  • See our Where to Buy page for stockists and online retailers

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References

¹S Held et al, Social tactics of pigs in a competitive foraging task: the ‘uniformed forager’ paradigm. Animal Behaviour 59: 569-576, 2000 quoted in CIWF, Stop-Look-Listen: Recognising the sentience of farm animals, 2003 quoted in Voiceless report: From Paddocks to Prisons: Future Directions on the NSW pig industry, 2005

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