Key pig welfare problems and how RSPCA Assured helps

Key pig welfare problems and how RSPCA Assured helps

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There are 10,400,000 pigs farmed in the UK every year.

Around 58 per cent of female pigs (called sows) give birth in farrowing crates in the UK.

This is a major concern because farrowing crates prevent sows from being able to turn around and sows are often not able to build their nests.

This is for up to five weeks, around the time of giving birth. 

Not allowing sows to behave naturally can make them frustrated and stressed.

Another welfare problem is that many pigs in the UK only have slatted, bare floors to lie on and aren't given enough things to do.

Pigs are intelligent animals and not allowing them to express their natural behaviour can lead to boredom. 

Mother pig and piglets in a farrowing crate.jpg

Farrowing crates:

  • Severely restrict pigs' movement
  • Often stop sows from being able to build a nest
  • Don’t allow sows to get comfortable for giving birth

No sows on the RSPCA Assured scheme are kept in farrowing crates

Bored pigs can become stressed and aggressive and may bite other pigs' tails.

What makes RSPCA Assured different?

The RSPCA welfare standards for pigs - which must be met for any pork products to be labelled RSPCA Assured -  don’t allow pigs to be kept in farrowing crates.

Sows must be given room to turn around freely and material to build their nests.

Watch our video and find out more!


Did you know?

    • Pigs are highly intelligent and social animals that learn quickly. In many tests they can out-perform dogs!
    • They naturally forage and root for food and eat a wide range of vegetables and animal products, including carrion (dead animals)
    • Happy pigs often have curly tails and stressed pigs tuck their tails between their legs
    • In cold weather pigs often huddle to keep warm. In warm weather they wallow in water and mud
    • Pigs are clean! They like to go to the toilet and sleep in separate areas


Indoors, pigs must have plenty of space to move about, material such as straw to root around in, and a comfortable place to sleep. 

Outdoors they must have access to a dry, comfortable shelter.

The RSPCA welfare standards cover the pigs throughout their lives, including health, diet, environment and care.

RSPCA Assured assessors and the RSPCA's farm livestock officers check that the RSPCA welfare standards are being met. 

Based on the latest scientific evidence, the standards are much more detailed and stricter than minimum legal requirements.

The RSPCA Assured label makes it easy to recognise products from animals that have had a better life so you can feel confident and good about your choice when shopping and eating out.

Suckling pigs

Pigs have better lives under the RSPCA Assured scheme

  • They are not kept in farrowing crates for giving birth
  • Sows are given space to  move around and build a nest
  • Pigs are given a comfortable, dry bedded place to lie down and rest
  • Material like straw allows pigs to root around and express natural behaviour which helps prevent boredom 
  • Stricter requirements around teeth clipping, nose ringing and tail docking.

How you can help

You can make a difference by choosing pork, sausages, bacon and ham with the RSPCA Assured label on them.

If you can’t find RSPCA Assured-labelled pork, then look for free range, outdoor reared, outdoor bred or organic.

Pork is also used as an ingredient in products like quiches, pies and sandwiches.

Look for the RSPCA Assured label or check the ingredients to see if free range, outdoor reared, outdoor bred or organic pork has been used.

You'll find lots more information about the welfare of pigs on the RSPCA website.