Natural pig farming recognizes that to have healthy sows we need to have happy sows that have freedom of movement to carry out their natural behaviors throughout pregnancy. We reject any use of sow stalls. They are an affront to humanity.
In short, they are given a life worth living and they reward us with large healthy litters of piglets.
We keep our sows in small family groups (2 - 8 sows). In my operation each sty contains two sows who have grown up together since birth. They have strong bonds to each other and enjoy a companionable, stress-free existence that allows them to carry out all their natural behaviors. They have total freedom of movement throughout their pen. One week before farrowing the sty is divided by a barrior and the sows are separated from each other. This supports the natural way of things as a sow will move away from the herd in the wild to find a secluded and safe spot to nest and prepare for farrowing. The system ensures that the separated sows are not stressed as they still live in their home environment (their sty) and they have full visibility of each other. They also can have physical contact through the pens barrier. They seem to enjoy the continued companionship of each other and will continue to lie down next to each other either side of the pen barrier when resting and sleeping.
The natural pig farming system of raising sows contrasts markedly with the approach of factory farming. In the majority of factory farm systems sows are kept imprisoned in small cages called stalls throughout their whole adult life when not farrowing or suckling her piglets from within a farrowing crate. Sow stalls are designed to prevent any movement of the sow. She can stand and lie, but not turn around. Forward and backward movement is all but impossible. Often she is often tethered as well as caged in these body glove prisons. The sow must stay in the stalls until she is due to give birth when she is put into yet another restrictive cage, this one known as a farrowing crate (we?ll cover these later). There only reason for inflicting such cruelty on the sows is that of operational convenience and a total lack of empathy in the souls of the operators. Let me be quite clear of my own view. The straight jacket known as sow stalls is an affront to humanity and its use is indefensible.
Sow stalls = systematic cruelty
Sows kept in sow stalls are not happy. The are clearly distressed and characteristically develop abnormal behavior in the form of ‘stereotypies’. These are relatively invariant sequences of movements that appear to serve no purpose. Examples include bar biting and sham chewing. Urinary tract disorders, lameness, feet and leg disorders are also common in sows raised in sow stalls.
You don’t need scientific research to tell you that keeping any sentient being in such conditions is just plain wrong (although there are thousands of such reports doing just that). Unfortunately it is the industry norm and the industry continues to resist any change in this practice. The European Union in January 2013 implemented legislation to ban the use of sow stalls (hurrah!), but despite giving the pig industry 13 years to prepare for this change, non compliance is high. In the U.S.A. and most of the rest of the world use of the sow stall continues. Please click here to see how you can help end this abomination: Fight for pig welfare.