Natural pig farming does not dock tails or clip teeth because we don?t need to. Pigs raised in our system do not exhibit any pig vices. Our system is designed to take into account the pigs welfare and core behavioral needs. It does so successfully. We do not have to mutilate our pigs because they live in a clean, fly free, open to climate, stimulating environment with
- Staple family groups
- Clearly established hierarchies
- Stimulating environment that allows for rooting, exploration, digging
- Space to choose where to lie and to escape any aggression
The result is happy contented pigs living normal pig lives.
The factory farming system is so pig welfare and behavior unfriendly it can cause abnormal animal behavior. Such behavior is known as pig vices and they have one unique feature. Not only are these vices endemic in factory farms, they are actually caused by the systematic deprivation and cruelty the pigs experience in these environments. Because the environment is so devoid of interest and stimulation the pigs turn their attention on anything close by that can provide something to do. Unfortunately, the only things close by is the other pigs crowded in the same pen. So what can the mentally stressed pig do? It bites another pigs tail or vulva. Just to do something. Unfortunately this often leads to a severe outbreak of tail and vulva biting that can spread very rapidly through a herd. To try to prevent this behavior factory farm systems routinely tail dock and teeth clip.
Pigs vices are caused by factory farming and the inhumane environment the pigs are raised in. Factors causing pigs vices include:
- Overcrowding which causes stress
- Lack of bedding material / manipulable material so the pigs have nothing of interest to do (they're actually bored out of their minds) and start biting just to do something
- Lack of space: No place to escape aggression
- Lack of adequate nutrition: salt and protein important in curbing spread of tail biting
- Genetics: some pig breeds more prone to tail biting than others
- Frustrating environment: e.g. lack of access to feeder etc.
- Mixing of pigs resulting in unstable hierarchies and aggression
Faced with this knowledge, the rational thing to do would be to change the way the factory farm raises pigs through introducing am ore stimulating pig friendly environment to the system. However, this is too much of an inconvenience for factory farmers. Instead they choose to try to limit the damage through pig mutilation. They clip a pigs teeth (with pliers) and cut off (dock) the majority of its tail. They do this with no local anesthetic or pain killers, usually within the first month of birth.
However, even this isn't effective. According to one study up to 29% of pigs on slatted floors have bitten tails (Madison et al 1980). Another study found that tail biting 3.5 times higher in pens without bedding (Danish Pig Board). The practice of mixing pigs after introduction to the herd increases risk of tail biting 1.5 times (National Committee of Pig Production 1980). Therefore despite the teeth clipping and tail docking practiced by the industry the cure simply isn't working. High rates of biting still take place.
Whilst the cruelty of cutting of a tail is bad enough, it gets worse. Tails are deliberately cut short with the sadistic intention of causing lifelong sensitivity and pain to the pigs tail end. By damaging the nerve endings in this way factory farmers deliberately set out to inflict a pain that the pig will have live with throughout its life. Factory farmers believe that if the tail is so painful and sensitive to additional pain a pig is twice as likely to run away from the any aggressor pig chewing on its tail, thereby making serious outbreaks of tail biting less likely. Nice theory, but of course, to run away from an aggressor intent on biting your tail you need the kind of pen space factory farmers simply don't give their pigs. You also need to be able to physically move away from any aggressor but of course stocking densities are so high that there is very little space to move to and a lot of other pig bodies in the way blocking such movement. In short, the docking of tails adds to the suffering the pig must live with throughout its life.
It should be noted factory farms try to justify teeth clipping, not only to prevent piglet biting each other, but as away of preventing the sows teat being bitten and torn when suckling. All my experience of raising pigs using the natural pig farming system confirms that such a rationale is not valid. We have had no problems with either piglets biting each other or causing damage to the sows teats. I believe the reason for this is that our piglets live in a stimulating environment unlike their factory farming counter-parts. Feeding is just one exciting aspect of there lives, and therefore any excitement at feeding time is tempered and less extreme. For piglets living in the barren factory farm system feeding time is the only thing of interest and so feeding frenzies that result in injury are more likely.
Regardless, what is clear that teeth clipping continues to be widespread, even though research clearly shows that whilst competition of piglets at the teats may result in udder lesions, the incidence of such lesions seems to be similar if the piglets teeth are clipped, ground or left intact (Gallois et al., 2005; Holyoake et al., 2004; Lewis et al., 2005a). Factory farmers just love to mutilate it seems.