Irish pig producers are losing money. Many are facing bankruptcy if they don’t receive another bailout from government. Clearly, the situation is unsustainable.
This is not just an Irish problem; even in Germany, the EU’s largest producer of pork, the numbers of pigs in the system today (22 million according to federal statistics just released), is at its lowest in decades. And as in Ireland, there are major concerns about the viability of many farms.
The plunge in pig numbers in Germany and other EU countries has been accelerated by the rapid rise in costs for feed, energy and fertilizer caused primarily by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, as the war is preventing shipments of corn and other feedstuffs from the Black Sea nation. Countries, including Germany, have also been battling outbreaks of African swine fever, particularly in wild hogs, restricting meat exports to some major buyers.
There is another reason, apart from the economic crisis, why the pig industry should be shut down. The industry treats pigs as commodities, not as intelligent, social, sentient beings. The entire industry functions on the basis of cramming as many animals as possible into as small a space as possible and rearing them in the shortest time possible. It ignores the fact that pigs have a complex range of emotions and an ability to experience pain and distress in the same way that a dog or a cat can.
The lives of pigs are very short (slaughter at 6 months) and stressful (crowded and chaotic conditions) and devoid of any quality. They are raised in large groups in overcrowded pens, on concrete floors without bedding. Because pigs are mixed with unfamiliar pigs, there is much conflict and stress. They never see the light of day, they have their tails cut off at birth (if they don’t, the other pigs will bite it and chew it and infection may result), and many of them have their teeth either clipped or grinded at birth (if this isn’t done, the 13 or 14 piglets will rip their mother’s teats apart in their competitive struggle to get the milk they need to grow).
Breeding sows are live a couple of years longer and spend much of their lives confined in stalls and in farrowing crates (these stalls and crates are so small that the sows cannot even turn around).
Pigs are sociable animals. They thrive in stable social groups which typically would consist of a few sows with their young. In natural conditions, they will range over hundreds of kilometres and spend much of their day foraging and rooting for food. They will make nests to sleep in and they will dig out wallows in the mud when they need to cool down. They will eat small animals if they can catch. They are prevented from acting out all of these deeply-engrained and natural behaviours on a factory farm.
They are routinely fed antibiotics to prevent outbreaks of disease that can spread through an entire shed in a day. These antibiotics enter the human food chain, creating a growing resistance to the drug.
The pig industry is on a ventilator and the plug should be pulled. It’s an industry that has lost any sense of a moral compass. The sooner it is shut down, the better for everyone: the animals, the environment, the planet, and we humans, who created this ruthlessly exploitative industry.