Meet Your Meat: Pigs

Back to the basics this week: Meet your meat.

Pigs are often compared to dogs because they are affectionate, loyal, and intelligent. Most people are not familiar with pigs because 97% of pigs in the United States today are on factory farms. People would be surprised to learn that pigs dream, recognize names, play video games better than some primates, and lead social lives of the same complexity as primates. In fact, according to Dr. Donald Broom, Cambridge University professor and former scientific advisor to the Council of Europe, “[Pigs] have the cognative ability to be quite sophisticated. Even more so than dogs and certainly [more so than] three-year-olds.” Learn more about the intelligence of pigs.

Pigs on today’s farms are denied all of their instincts. Mother pigs (sows) spend the majority of their lives in individual “gestation crates” which are two feet wide, too small for them to even turn around.

According to a March 2004 article in the Des Moines Register, “A pregnant sow’s biological need to build a nest before having her litter is so great that some sows confined in modern hog buildings will rub their snouts raw on the concrete floor while trying to satisfy the drive.”

This deprived environment causes neurotic coping behaviors such as continual bar biting, obsessive pressing on water bottles, and sham chewing (chewing nothing). One slaughterhouse investigator wrote, “what will remain with me forever is the sound of desperate pigs banging their heads against immovable doors and their constant and repeated biting at the prison bars that held them captive. This, I now know, is a sign of mental collapse.”

Piglets are taken from their mothers as young as 10 day old and are packed into overcrowed pens until they are sent off for breeding or fattening. Because they are not properly weaned from their mothers, they bite each other’s tails, searching for milk. To prevent this problem, piglets’ tails are cut off and the ends of their teeth are broken off, both without the use of pain killers.

Just like all other animals in CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations), sick pigs are left untreated and either die from illness or are killed by “thumping” (slamming animal’s head against the floor until they die), drowning, or standing on their neck. According to a November 2002 article in the New York Times, “Sick pigs, being unproductive ‘production units’ are clubbed to death on the spot.” Approximately 100 million pigs are killed in the US each year. A Washington Post article reported that, “[hogs] are dunked in taks of hot water after they are stunned to soften the hides for skinning. As a result, a botched slaughter condemns some hogs to being scalded and drowned. Secret videotape from an Iowa pork plant shows hogs squealing and kicking as they are being lowered into the water.”

According to one slaughter plant worker, “After they left me, the hogs would go up a hundred-foot ramp to a tank where they’re dunked in 140° water…Water any hotter than that would take the meat right off their bones…There’s no way these animals can bleed out in the few minutes it takes to get up the ramp. By the time they hit the scalding tank, they’re still fully conscious and squealing. Happens all the time.”
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Breakfast: Cereal with soy milk
Lunch: Falafel pita sandwich
Dinner: Went to a BBQ – veggie burger, pasta salad, cornbread, beans

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