Monday, May 18, 2009

Hog Hell

I remember the first and only time I'd ever been in a battery piggery - I was in Yorkshire, staying with a nice boy I'd met on holiday and his mum invited me to go for guided walk around the farm. The smell was so appalling and clingy that afterwards I had to shower and put all of the clothes I'd been wearing, into the washing machine.

But the really appalling thing was the size of the pig pens. The pigs were penned up in small groups and even smaller crates. The sows were penned in so tightly they couldn't turn around - I was told this prevented them from accidentally squashing their piglets.

And I smugly assumed that piggies in New Zealand ran wild and free-ish, like our deer, sheep and cattle.

Then I saw some film footage last night on 60 Minutes Sunday, that made me realise how wrong I've been all this time. The pigs in this farm - and apparently it's not unique - were confined one to a crate, and the crates were so small they could not turn around. Some crates looked big enough to allow the pig to lie down in despair, others didn't. Sows lay effectively immobilied for years like big, pink piglet machines.

It was pretty much as bad as the hen batteries I've seen, only worse because pigs are supposed to be even more intelligent than dogs.

It was so upsetting, and this is all legal. I just don't understand why pig farmers aren't subject to the same rules of humane treatment as other livestock in New Zealand.
So, no more pork sausages on the menu. And we will get getting all our bacon from Freedom Farms from now on.

Edited 23 May - Sorry Antoinette, the TV show I saw this on was Sunday, not 60 Minutes (those hour-long current affairs shows all look the same to me). I couldn't find the show on Youtube, but I did find some similar footage - also received by SAFE - from another piggery in New Zealand (about a year old), here's a link to a news story following the screening and here's a piece about it from SAFE.


donnasoowho said...

I have, occasionally, felt guilty about my excessive pork consumption at the expense of pig welfare issues. Unfortunately I can't go without bacon so just turn a blind eye. Although I'm pretty bad I only buy free range eggs now cause Ray insists and throw a bit wobbly if I buy other ones. And ditto on the 'environmentally friendly cleaning products'....

Angela said...

The thing that is frustrating is that buying from more animal friendly places and organic is that it costs more.
Somethings are worth it though

Antoinette said...

I read a very, very long article in Rolling Stone about 2 1/2 years ago that shared not only the appalling conditions in pig farms in the U.S., which I still don't think are regulated, but also the damage the pig farms and their waste do to the neighboring communities and the environment at large.

I stopped eating pork, beef, and poultry shortly thereafter and have not looked back.

Thanks for the heads-up on the 60 Minutes story.

Nigel Patel said...

When I was ten I lived very near a pig slaughtery in an industrial Detroit suburb.
The noise was nightmarish but then the smell came on the wind and that was worse.

Heidi said...

It really is sad how animals are treated. I am not a vegetarian but it would be nice if the animals could at least enjoy the short life they had before I ate them. I know that sounds terrible.

Violet said...

donnasoowho: free range bacon is really easy to find, at least in NZ. Tho I must admit it was a lot harder to give up chicken (for similar reasons) until I left home.

angela: yes it is more expensive. We're lucky that local beef and lamb are normally free range, so we can give up the intensively farmed meat without having to go vegetarian.

antoinette: good for you! I would love to go vegetarian, but have been raised on a high-meat diet all my life and, to be honest, if I tried going vege without the help of a trained chef we'd probably die of malnutrition ;-) That 60 Minutes show was a NZ one, and the footage was of a NZ farm so you might have trouble finding it. It might be on YouTube though eh?

nigel: I'm sure the smell would've been vomit-inducing.

Heidi: Oh I feel the same way. I don't have a problem with eating animals as such, as long as they are raised humanely and get to have a reasonable life before they are (humanely) slaughtered. Although I do feel bad about baby animals being killed after such short lives. And I'm a bit iffy about the dairy industry too, for similar reasons (tho it hasn't stopped me from putting buying milk and ice cream).

Nigel Patel said...

I had no idea before that death had a scent.

Antoinette said...

I will check on YouTube. I have become a much better cook because I can't get yummy non-meat food out very often. In addition to understanding nutrition better, too, my skin is really clear! It wasn't horrible before, but a month after cutting out the meat, a couple of people asked me if I was vegetarian b/c my skin looked so healthy. I know someday I might want to eat meat again, but for now I'm good.

Violet said...

nigel: you must not read enough horror novels.

antoinette: We have enough trouble just having one non-meat dinner per week! I'm no cook either, so if the boy wants to cook sausages, burgers and beefy yum-yums then that's what I eat. But I draw the line at MacDonalds though.