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On factory farms, the death rate of pig sows is soaring

It's not yet clear why this is happening, but there are plenty of suspects
Key Takeaways
  • A rise in mortality for factory farm pig sows has growers worried.
  • There are some obvious possible reasons, but studies are underway.
  • Rise in deaths points toward a need for more humane treatment of pigs.

While relatively little is known about the psychology of domestic pigs, what is known suggests that pigs are cognitively complex and share many traits with animals whom we consider intelligent. — Thinking Pigs: A Comparative Review of Cognition, Emotion, and Personality in Sus domesticus

Of all the animals that humans eat, perhaps the most morally troubling are pigs because they’re considered to be highly aware creatures. The stories of their sentience are myriad and make a compelling case that they know just what awaits them at slaughter. That they continue to be raised as food is heartbreaking on the face of it to many, and the conditions at pork factory farms have long been troubling. (In addition, 5,500 pigs drowned in North Carolina during Hurricane Florence.)

Now there’s a new problem with industrially bred pigs that has even the pork industry alarmed: Sow deaths from prolapse—a condition that causes a sow’s rectum, vagina, or uterus to collapse—are skyrocketing. According to The Guardian, the pig mortality rate nearly doubled between 2013 and 2016 on factory farms with more than 125 sows across 800 pork companies. Some farmers are reporting prolapse as the cause of 25% to 50% sow deaths.

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Warning: This post contains troubling images.

Wally, the slaughterhouse-truck-escaping pig, with the author at Soulspace Farm Sanctuary(Photo: Syd M Johnson)

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