There are 4.5 million pigs in the UK, with most reared for bacon, ham, pork and sausages. Over 70% of pigs in the UK are reared under intensive conditions, being closely confined indoors for their entire lives.
Production and welfare
- The majority of pigs reared for meat in the UK are crossbreeds.
- Sows are first mated at six-to-eight months old, with up to 90% of sows in the UK serviced by artificial insemination.
- Sows are kept in farrowing crates for three to four weeks when giving birth. Sows are deprived of space and nesting materials which results in abnormal behaviour and stress.
- Piglets are prematurely weaned after a minimum of 21 days (weaning would naturally occur at 12-14 weeks) and a week later the sow will be serviced again. Pigs become bored and aggressive in confined spaces, which means teeth clipping and tail docking are required to reduce excessive fighting and biting.
Intensive farming methods increase diseases such as swine fever, viral pneumonia, meningitis, blue-ear disease and diarrhoea.
Pigs are either electrically stunned before having their throat cut, or gassed to death by carbon dioxide. Pigs are slaughtered after four to seven months. Sows produce around four to seven litters before they become exhausted and are slaughtered at three-to-five years.