Pork, the most popular meat on the planet, gets consumed in excess of 110 million tons every year, making it a highly profitable market for farmers. But if you do a little digging, you discover some awful pig facts that even make bacon look unappetizing. The process of pig farming seeks to create the heartiest pigs as fast as possible, and as a result, produces a ton of terrible side effects. The truth is every step of the farming process for pigs makes for a gruesome experience, entirely independent of gross facts about pigs themselves that already make them even less attractive as a food option. Additionally, a smorgasbord of unsavory side effects stems from pig factories, ones that affect surrounding communities as much as they do the animals and employees.
Be warned bacon lovers, because this list might cast a shadow on your sunny-side-up eggs.
Most farms used to breed animals for slaughter make horrible places to live. Since profit demands these spaces be as efficient as possible at fattening animals, animal wellbeing automatically gets pushed to the wayside. This means most pigs get forced into cramped conditions, often unable to even turn their heads around, and rarely experience fresh air or sunlight. Instead, large fans blow toxic fumes from their manure out of the barns where the pigs reside, while they are constantly fed antibiotics and hormones to keep themselves healthy and fat, respectively.
The sow, a term for a female pig, gets perhaps the worst deal. Often forced into incredibly tight farrowing crates that prevent them from even turning around, sows basically live their entire lives in these tiny pens giving birth to piglets.
“They were like fat people on the middle seat of an airplane,” said author Barry Estabrook after visiting a pig farm in Iowa. “Their sides pressed out through the bars. This is the way they lived their whole life, just producing piglets. They were like machines.”
Even in places like the UK and Europe, where bans exist against sow stalls, the vast majority of pigs do not spend much time outside. Instead, piglets might only spend a brief period outside after birth while pregnant sows may be allowed to roam in fields. The rest of the time, the pigs usually remain indoors in group housing or crates, stopping them from living naturally. Only 3% of the animals ever spend the vast majority of their lives outside.
In addition to enduring awful living conditions, pigs bred on farms often suffer some form of physical mutilation. Workers use these practices to make it easier to keep the pigs close together without regard as to how it might impact the animal's welfare. Some forms of mutilation include the removal of pig tails to stop them being bitten by stressed pigs, castration without anesthetic to stop them going through puberty and spoiling meat, and teeth reduction surgery so sows never get hurt by their suckling piglets, who will fight their siblings over milk. Even more "humanely" treated sows who enjoy the blessing of roaming outside go through a process called "nose ringing" to prevent them from rooting (digging) with their snouts.