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Size of the U.S. industry / Legal position / Pregnancy & Birth / Gestation Crate / Farrowing Crate / Mutilations / Slaughter / Pollution / Undercover filming

Viva!'s research and investigation of pig farming, revealed an industry that is responsible for the imprisonment and death of millions of pigs. Gentle and intelligent animals are kept in crates, during pregnancy and birth, so small that they cannot walk or turn around. Those raised for meat live in filthy, crowded, and disease ridden pens. Those who survive - and many don't - are killed after 6 months.

In addition to this, pig farming is wrecking havoc on the environment via waste lagoons and environmental spills.

Size of the U.S. industry
In the U.S., 98.1 million pigs were killed in 2000. 99.2 million are projected to be killed in 2001.

While the pig industry has been growing, the number of pig farms is decreasing, resulting in more pigs being raised on fewer farms. Today there are about 98,500 pig farms compared to 3 million in the 1950s. From 1997-2000, small farms continued to be replaced by farms with 50,000 or more pigs; some with more than 500,000.

Legal position
Pigs, like other animals raised for food, are excluded from the federal Animal Welfare Act. There are no standards set by the U.S. government in terms of how animals are housed, fed, or treated on farms.

Thirty states have anti-cruelty statues that exempt customary farming practices. This means that any practice, no matter how horrific, is allowed if it is customary. This includes tail docking and castration without anesthetic. It allows gestation and farrowing crates to exist legally.

Pregnancy & Birth
The breeding sows are basically moved back and forth between two areas: gestation crates and farrowing crates. She will spend approximately 3 to 4 years of her adult life in these areas. Approximately 80% of sows are in confinement.

In a sixth month period, about 18% of U.S. sows will be killed. Of those, about 42% are killed because they have reached the typical age at which sows are no longer considered productive, and about 22% are killed because of failure to reproduce. Up to one-third of breeding sows are culled because of lameness, joint problems, strained tendons, or infections of the toe, foot and leg. Some of these are caused by abrasions and sprains from poor housing, slatted concrete floors and inadequate housing.

Gestation Crate
Most sows are intensively confined where they are kept in gestation crates while pregnant. Here they are unable to walk or turn around. Some of the larger sows barely fit in the crates. The crates are 24 inches wide, 7 feet long, and 40 inches high. Four bars are needed over the top of the crates to prevent the animals from climbing out. They are forced to live on a cold, bare, cement floor in their own excrement during their 4 month pregnancy.

Farrowing Crate
Gestation is 111 to 115 days. Around the 110th day, just before a mother pig is to give birth, she is moved to a farrowing crate. As in gestation crates, farrowing crates do not allow the sow enough room to turn around. The sows can stand up and lie down only with difficulty. No straw, bedding or other soft materials are there. The piglets are given space just outside of the bars that surround the mother so that they can suckle when she lies down.

Sows are being pushed to their biological limits and industry spokespeople estimate that as many as 20% of breeding sows die prematurely from exhaustion and stress due to the impacts of restrictive confinement and accelerated breeding schedule. These death rates are increasing.

Castration: Ninety percent of male piglets are castrated before weaning without anesthetic. According to a study reported in Applied Animal Behavior Science, castration increased squealing and other behavioral changes in piglets less than 18 days old.
Ear notching: Between the ages of 1-3 days, piglets' ears are cut for identification purposes.
Tail docking: This has become a common practice for raising confined pigs, and occurs in 80%. With nothing else to do in their pens, pigs will sometimes nibble at each other's tails. If blood is drawn it can lead to cannibalism.

Teeth clipping: The piglet's eight sharp needle teeth are cut within 24 hours after birth.

The world's largest slaughterhouse is owned by Smithfield Foods in Tar Heel, North Carolina. It kills 32,000 pigs a day. An IBP slaughterhouse in Columbus Junction Iowa, kills 12,000 pigs a day. A Seaboard slaughterhouse in Guymon, Oklahoma kills 16,000 animal a day.

Pigs are first taken to the stunning chutes and areas where they will be electrically shocked with a "stunner." Stunning is intended to make the pigs unconscious. However, because stunning at high voltages may result in the bursting of capillaries which makes the flesh unappealing to consumers, the voltage is sometimes kept too low. Insufficient current can cause an animal to be paralyzed without losing sensibility. If a pig is improperly stunned, he or she could be fully conscious during some of the stages of dismemberment.

After the "stunning," the pigs are then stuck, a procedure in which a worker cuts the pig's throat and the blood is drained. The pigs is then shackled by their hind leg with a chain and hung upside down.

Pig farms with 100,000 animals produce the waste of a city of a quarter-million people, but have no wastewater treatment system. At a single site in Missouri, one pig factory produces fecal waste equivalent to that of a city of 360,000.

One of the main issues is the lagoons typically used by pig farms. Most are as big as football fields. In October of 1999, Hurricane Floyd swept through North Carolina. Spreading with the rain was feces and urine, mostly from giant pig farms. The storm killed more than two million turkeys, chickens, pigs and other farmed animals. Images of bloated pigs and turkey carcasses filled television screens. The storm destroyed more than $1 billion in crops and compromised the drinking water of a portion of the state, with more than 50 lagoons flooding.

In 1998, an Environmental Protection Agency water quality report to Congress cited agriculture as the leading source of pollution in 70% of impaired river miles. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources in North Carolina found 41 cases in which pollution from pig farms reached creeks, lakes, or rivers in 2000. They identified 285 cases in which pig lagoons were too full and in danger of spilling, and 338 cases in which pig farmers had sprayed too much pig waste onto crops as fertilizer. Over a billion fish were killed due to a pig waste spill into the Neuse River in North Carolina in June of 1995.

There are wastes in addition to manure. According to one industry journal, "a 5000 sow farrow-to-finish farming system with a mortality of 7%, 10%, 5%, 1% and 1% in the sow, neonatal, nursery, growing, and finishing herd, respectively, will produce in one year over 200,000 pounds of dead pigs."

Undercover filming
Viva! conducted investigations of farms in February 2001 in Southern Georgia.

In the area where the gestation crates were, there was a constant clanging noise from the sows hitting their heads against the doors of the cages. Here they could not walk or turn around. When they tried to lie down it was done with difficulty. They live on concrete flooring.

In the farrowing crate area, the mother pigs and babies were covered in flies. Charts on the wall listed how many piglets had lived versus died.

In the fattening area, the concrete floors held the pigs in small holding cells. In one cell a pig had an ear missing. Another had a ruputure the size of a grapefruit protruding from his stomach. There was a dead pig who was constantly nudged by his cell mates. The smell was overwhelming in these farms.

Investigations by Viva! were conducted in May, 2001 in North Carolina. (Sampson, Bladen and Duplin Counties).

Here there were thousands of pigs housed in sheds. Many were dead or dying. One pig with a large black growth on his stomach was standing, but would not move. Eventually he began to kneel down (a nearby pig pushed at his ear) eventually he fell over on his side, breathed heavily for a while and then died. In another area, there was a dead and bloated pig. The nearby pigs licked him constantly. One pig who was lying near the watering area seemed only to be able to wiggle away when other pigs came near him.

The next farm had 8 rows of sheds. Manure oozed from the sides of the sheds. Again, the smell here was overpowering, even on the outside.

In one of the alleyways between rows, you could see what looked like two dead pigs. One was the bloated, rotting corpse of a pig who had obviously been there quite a long time. The other pig was still alive. He could not reach any food or water. He just laid there pushing his nose into the area where the rest of the pigs were.

In one of the sectioned-off areas, the pigs were collectively trying to push over the bars holding them in. The noise and force with which they were pushing the bars was jolting. Another pig had an injured foot. He limped as he walked. He struggled to lie down by carefully placing his weight on his front legs before lying fully down. There was an emaciated pig so thin that his ribs protruded and a large growth on his stomach.

The last farm was a "nursery." This housed dozens of young piglets in small, enclosed areas. The smell was incredible and flies were everywhere. It was difficult to stay inside. Almost everywhere you looked you could see dead piglets. Flies crawled on the dead and living piglets, on the walls, and everywhere else. The piglets were housed on grated flooring, with no straw and nothing to do. Sick piglets could be seen on the floors. Nudged by their companions they just grunted when pushed. Manure oozed from the building.

Fully referenced copies of the When Pigs Cry report are available from Viva! Video footage and still photos are also available. Contact us at or 530/75-8482.

Media Advisory Date: December 5, 2001

Contact: lauren Ornelas, 530/759-8482

Undercover videofootage & photos available

Photo Opportunity: Kids and rescued pigs!

Shocking Cruelty Behind Holiday Ham to be Revealed
Students to make Holiday Wish for Peace on Earth
Urge People to Eschew Traditional Holiday Meal

Vacaville, CA . . . Students from pre-school through college will join vegetarian advocates in urging the public to spare pigs this holiday season by choosing vegetarian alternatives to ham for the traditional holiday dinner. At a December 12 press conference, the children's wishes for peace on Earth for all living creatures will follow the release of never before seen undercover footage of inhumane and unsanitary conditions at large pig farms in the U.S.

The press conference will be followed by a vegan reception featuring veggie "pigs in a blanket" and other holiday alternatives. It will take place at the Animal Place sanctuary for farm animals in Vacaville, where photo opportunities with children, pigs, and other animals will abound. Take photos of the kids with Freddie, Annabelle, and other rescued pigs!

WHAT: Press Conference, Vegan Reception
WHEN: Wednesday, December 12, 2001, 11 a.m.
WHERE: Animal Place Sanctuary, 3448 Laguna Creek Trail, Vacaville, CA

(We can e-mail or fax directions)

The press conference will mark the launch of Viva!'s When Pigs Cry campaign, which seeks to expose the horrific practices of today's industrial pig farms. Viva!'s video footage shows pigs crammed in filthy indoor units. Mother pigs are pinned down in metal racks, unable to turn or stand, with their nipples exposed for their piglets to nurse. The video also documents sick pigs tossed into the aisles like trash to die -- some still alive but unable to reach food or water. The pigs are fed a steady diet of antibiotics, many of which are banned in Europe because of their danger to human health.

"The unspeakable horrors hidden behind the holiday ham are incompatible with the peaceful, life-affirming spirit of the holiday season," said lauren Ornelas, Director of Viva!USA. "This year, more than ever, the wish for Peace on Earth holds great meaning. The quest for non-violence begins on your plate."

About us: Viva!, an international organization, has its national headquarters in Davis, CA. Undercover video and photos taken of pig factory farms in the U.S. and a report on the status of the industry will be available at the event or by contacting Viva! at 530/759-8482.


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Media Briefing

Media Release
December 5, 2001