Mother pig with sad expression looks out from behind horizontal metal bars called a farrowing crate. Her young piglets are crowded behind her, outside of the crate, under a lamp to keep them warm

Speak up against the routine abuse of pigs in Victoria.

Pigs are intuitive, compassionate animals - sadly, they are also one of the most abused. The Victorian Government has launched an inquiry into the welfare of farmed pigs in Victoria and they need to hear from you.  Have your say by 12 January 2024.

Animals Australia

Animals Australia team

Last updated December 21, 2023

Almost half a million pigs are subjected daily to cruel, outdated practices every year in Victoria alone. And annually, around 1.1 million pigs are killed in Victorian slaughterhouses, most in cruel gas chambers.

Their suffering is largely hidden from public view. Mother pigs are confined to cages the size of a small bathtub. As her newborn piglets are having their teeth and tails cut without any pain relief, their older siblings already well versed in this cycle of cruelty will be facing a terrifying death in a gas chamber.  

Treated as mere ‘products’ rather than the sentient, emotionally intelligent beings they are, farmed pigs in Victoria are denied a life worth living and subjected to relentless cruel practices from birth until their last breath. 

Through ‘codes of practice’ which provide exemptions to animal protection laws, the industry has been allowed to ‘write their own rules’, giving them license to prioritise profits over pig welfare.

Now, the Victorian Government is undertaking a significant inquiry into the welfare of farmed pigs and all Victorians are invited to have their say. Read on to see how you can make your voice heard for pigs – you have until 12 January 2024. 

How to make your voice heard for pigs.

There are two ways you can speak up for pigs during this inquiry. You can take a quick survey or make a written submission (or you can do both!). Your written submission can be as short or as long as you like. Oursubmission guide highlights the key issues, which you can choose to include in your written submission.

1. Take the survey

  • The survey has 5 questions and should take you less than 10 minutes to complete. The survey asks for your thoughts on pig farming, intensive confinement and the methods used to render pigs unconscious prior to slaughter.
  • If you don’t know much about CO2 gas stunning of pigs, but want to complete the survey, you can learn more about it here.
  • You won’t need to provide your home or email address – the survey will only ask you for your postcode and age range.
  • Whilst the survey is short, it will be submitted as evidence to the inquiry.
GO TO SURVEY

2. Make a written submission  

  • You can write your submission in a word document and upload it to the parliamentary website or you can write your submission directly into the online form. You may also email it to: pigwelfareinquiry@parliament.vic.gov.au
  • The website will ask you to provide your name, email address and postcode.
  • There is no set format to write your submission. You can write it up as a simple letter or a whole report. You could simply include the key points highlighted in the submission guide below in your own words, or go into as much detail as you like about each of the areas listed in the terms of reference. 
  • If you need any assistance with your submission, please reach out to our friendly team on 03 9329 6333.
MAKE A SUBMISSION

Submission Guide.

This guide will provide you with information you can include in your submission. It addresses each of the key points relative to the Terms of Reference, in order, which the Committee will use to conduct the Inquiry. The Terms of Reference are important to know – they tell you what the Committee is inquiring about, what they need to consider, and what they’ll need to report back on.  

Below are the points you can include in your submission. We encourage you to consider the points below and put them in your own words to have the most impact for pigs.

1. Existing Regulatory Frameworks. 

Are not working to promote good welfare for pigs – in fact, they do the exact opposite and allow routine intensive confinement and painful husbandry procedures to continue.

  • Victoria’s animal protection laws contain exemptions for farmed animals – meaning that acts and practices that would normally be considered animal cruelty are allowed to happen to pigs, because they are covered by an industry code of practice.
  • This means pigs can be intensively confined for most of their lives and subjected to surgical procedures without pain relief. Sick or injured piglets are allowed to be killed by smashing their heads against a hard surface, and agonising methods are used to ‘stun’ pigs before slaughter.
  • Pig farming is not properly regulated. In fact, it is largely self-regulated, with dire outcomes for pigs. Current methods used to farm and slaughter pigs are being signed off by Federal or State Agricultural authorities, who are the same Departments charged with promoting high productivity and profit by the pig industry.  This is an unacceptable conflict of interest that must be resolved.  

New regulations must be introduced for pigs that specifically prohibit:

  • The use of CO2 stunning of pigs prior to slaughter.
  • The extreme confinement of sows in sow stalls and conventional farrowing crates.
  • The use of boar stalls.
  • Pieces of pigs’ bodies to be cut off and invasive procedures (including teeth clipping, tail docking and castration), without any pain relief.
  • Starving sows – at a bare minimum, all sows must be provided with sufficient roughage/bulk to prevent chronic hunger.
  • Killing piglets deemed sick or injured, by smashing them against a hard surface.
  • Housing conditions that don’t provide sufficient space for pigs to meet their behavioural and social needs.
  • The use of electric prods on pigs on farms, when pigs are transported, or in abattoirs.
  • Pigs to be housed without adequate substrate and enrichment. 
  • Piglets to be weaned early. Early weaning is one of the underlying causes of tail biting, which is why the industry cuts the tails off piglets – this is a painful mutilation that increases the piglets risk of infection.
2. Methods used to ‘stun’ pigs before slaughter.
  • Most Australian slaughterhouses use carbon dioxide (CO2) gas chambers to stun pigs unconscious before slaughter. Almost 90% of pigs, whether factory-farmed or free-range are ‘stunned’ using CO2 gas. Termed as “controlled atmosphere stunning,” this process involves lowering pigs into chambers filled with lethal CO2 gas. 
  • Despite this method of gas stunning being used for decades in Victoria, there is long-standing evidence and scientific research confirming thatthe use of CO2 stunning systems causes pigs severe pain, suffering and distress. 
  • Investigation footage has revealed that as soon as pigs are lowered into the gas chambers, they begin frantically searching for air, pushing their noses up through the top bars of the gondola, seeking the oxygen that they know is just above them. Pigs violently spasm and shake as they are lowered into the gas chamber and can be seen gasping for air even after they have collapsed. The CO2 gas also causes pain to the pigs’ soft tissues – their noses, mouth and eyes.
  • The majority of animal welfare groups around the world, including the RSPCA here in Australia, are opposed to this method of slaughter for pigs due to the severe and prolonged suffering it causes.  
3. Phase out of sow stalls.

Sow stalls, also known as ‘gestation crates’ or ‘gestation stalls, confine a sow during pregnancy. 

  • Current regulations permit the confinement of sows in stalls for up to 6 weeks each pregnancy. Stalls are barely wider than the sow, only allowing one step forward or back, and no room to turn around.
  •  Sow stalls restrict even the most basic freedom of movement. Mother pigs are unable to get up and lie down comfortably. They cannot turn around or walk freely. They may suffer painful injuries, lameness and urinary tract infections, and experience social isolation, stress and frustration.
  • Despite pledges by industry to phase out highly restrictive sow stalls by 2017, their use continues – evidence collected in 2022 from six farms across Victoria reveal pigs are still confined to in these cramped, metal stalls for almost 30 days at a time. 
4. Pig breeding and housing practices.

Farrowing crates confine mother pigs to the size of a bathtub for weeks. 

  • When a sow is close to giving birth, it is standard industry practice to move them into a farrowing crate – a small metal cage in which sows are extremely confined in while they give birth and nurse their piglets.
  • Like sow stalls, farrowing crates afford little room to do anything- They cannot turn around, leave the crate, or interact properly with their piglets. They are forced to urinate and defecate where they stand or lay. This is extremely stressful for mother pigs who are very hygienic, and when able, are known to walk quite a distance to toilet away from her piglets, social group, and home.
  • Mother pigs have strong maternal instincts to nurture their newborns – she would normally teach them to socialise, how to behave properly, and forms lifelong bonds with her young. The farrowing crate not only confines a pig’s physical desire to nurture her young, but inhibits her psychological need to rear them properly. This impacts her mental health, with mother pigs known to suffer from depression.
  • Sows can be subjected to this extreme confinement for up to 6 weeks each pregnancy – but due to artificial insemination and intensive breeding practices sows are often pregnant for the majority of their adult life. After weaning her piglets, the breeding sow has at best only a few days of comparative movement before the next ‘service’ and repetition of the regime. Some sows may spend the greater part of their lives in very close confinement.
5. International industry ‘best practice’.

Australia is close to the worst of developed countries in terms of still permitting sow stalls for up to six weeks. Several countries, such as the UK, banned sow stalls in the 1990s and those that still permit them do not allow sows to be confined for anywhere close to the six weeks allowed in Victoria.

  • Sow stalls have been banned in Sweden since 1994, in the United Kingdom since 1999, and across all EU Member states since January 1, 2013, with a phased 11-year transition and limited exemptions. In the Netherlands, sow stalls are only permitted for four days after insemination.  Germany is also set to ban sow stalls after 2030.
  • Farrowing crates have been banned in Switzerland since 1997, Sweden since 1987, and Norway since 2000. Other regions, like New Zealand (by 2025) and the EU (by 2027), are phasing them out, while Germany voted in July 2020 for a transition to a maximum of 5 days of confinement in farrowing crates.

Of course, confinement of any kind, for any length of time, may subject pigs to great distress, frustration, depression and boredom. Pigs, in dull and uninspiring surroundings, feel a deep yearning for variety, akin to human boredom. This emotional experience, if left unsatisfied, may spiral into distressing states like depression or self-harm.

Denied their natural curiosity, the lives of sows have become overwhelmingly monotonous, highlighting their profound desire to explore and engage with their environment.

6. Other relevant matters.

Pigs matter – they are sentient, emotionally intelligent beings who at the very least should be afforded quality of life and protection from cruelty.

  • Pigs are one of the most sensitive and intelligent species on the planet, which increases their capacity to suffer.    
  • These are highly empathetic animals who have been said to have the intelligence of a 3 year old child. Yet in farming systems across Victoria they are denied almost everything that makes life worth living. They aren’t even afforded the most basic protections under animal cruelty laws.  
  • As the community becomes more informed about standard practices inflicted on animals, expectations for more humane treatment will only increase.  
  • Farming and slaughter systems in Victoria do not accord with community values.
MAKE SUBMISSION NOW

This image contains content which some may find confronting

A pink piglet sitting in a washing basket with some blankets, looking up
Behind every piece of pork, bacon and ham, is someone like her. A thinking, feeling being, who deserves our care and protection.
Image credit: Brandon Cherry

Thank you for being a voice for pigs!

By making a submission to this inquiry, you’re helping give vital representation to farmed pigs in Victoria.

Whilst much effort is going into changing the laws, we must also accept the reality that: as long as pigs are seen only for what their bodies can produce, instead of who they really are, laws alone will never protect them cruelty.

The good news is, you can. 

We live at a time where there is an abundance of plant-based alternatives to pig and other meat products available. Choosing them is the ultimate act of kindness for animals. And every conscious, kind food choice will help spare more animals from facing a near-lifetime of confinement in a metal crate, or ever having to see the inside of a slaughterhouse.

You’ll find plenty of tips and tasty animal-friendly recipes in our Veg Starter Kit. Order your FREE copy today.