Pigs are highly intelligent and sociable animals highly susceptible to suffering. In the UK, there are currently 10,400,000 pigs farmed every year.

Our top three animal welfare concerns

1. Farrowing crates

Around 58 per cent of female pigs (sows) are kept in farrowing crates for up to five weeks, around the time they give birth. While farrowing crates help prevent the sows from laying on their piglets, they also severely restrict their movement, stopping them from being able to turn around or carry out natural nesting behaviour. This can cause the animals significant stress and frustration.

What the RSPCA standards say...

The RSPCA standards strictly prohibit the use of farrowing crates. Instead, they require birthing sows to be provided with a warm, comfortable environment with plenty of straw to help cushion and protect their piglets, whilst also allowing greater freedom of movement and the ability to indulge in natural nesting behaviours.

2. Barren environments (slats)

The majority of pigs are kept in overcrowded conditions, on bare slatted (like grates) or concrete floors. As well as being uncomfortable these conditions can cause foot and leg problems, including lameness. They also stop the pigs from being able to carry out natural and stimulating ‘rooting’ behaviours. This can cause boredom and frustration which in turn encourage aggressive behaviours like biting other pigs’ tails causing serious injury and discomfort.

What the RSPCA standards say…

The RSPCA standards do not allow pigs to be kept on bare slatted or concrete floors. RSPCA Assured pigs must be provided with plenty of space, straw bedding and litter to ensure they are comfortable and able to carry out natural rooting behaviours. This can help reduce aggressive behaviours like tail biting. They must also be provided with a dry, warm and comfortable shelter when outside as well as mud wallows, which help protect their skin from sunburn.

3. Mutilations

Pigs are subject to a number of mutilations from tail docking and teeth clipping to nose rings. This is often done to prevent potentially more harmful welfare issues. For example, pigs are tail docked to reduce harm and incidents of tail biting. However, if not performed by trained individuals with the right equipment and suitable pain relief, there is the potential to cause significant pain and suffering.

What the RSPCA standards say...

The RSPCA standards never allow the routine use of mutilations. In some cases, the RSPCA may grant permission to allow pigs to be tail docked, have their teeth clipped or fitted with a nose ring where a vet has provided evidence that it is in the animals best interest. In these cases, it is only permitted when carried out by a properly trained individual with the correct equipment and necessary pain relief.

The RSPCA’s preference would always be to rule out mutilations completely and actively research alternative solutions to these problems.

Understand your labels

When outdoor, doesn’t necessarily mean outdoor. Don’t be fooled.

  • Indoor
  • Outdoor bred
  • Outdoor reared
  • Free-range

Be aware: free-range is not a guarantee of good welfare any more than indoor is a guarantee of bad welfare. The RSPCA believes that both indoor and outdoor farms have positives and negatives when it comes to ensuring good animal welfare. For example, free-range farms are subject to challenging weather conditions (now more than ever), whereas indoor offers a controlled environment. We’ve found the most important common factor is good farm management. Which is why the RSPCA standards don’t just look at the animals, but at the staff caring for those animals.


Where to buy

RSPCA Assured pork is available in a lot of major retailers including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Co-op and M&S.

Don’t forget… pork is found in a lot of different products, from sandwiches to pies and quiches. So, don’t forget to check the label.

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