Pig covered in blood in factory farm

5 Shocking, Legal Practices Pigs Endure on Factory Farms

Discover 5 legal practices endured by these animals, trapped within farms and slaughterhouses worldwide…

Within factory farming, pigs live their lives far from the idyllic farm scenes painted by the meat industry. Instead of open fields, they spend their days in concrete or slatted floor pens, confined indoors. On some farms, thousands of pigs share a single large building, with up to 2,500 of them under one roof.

Consider the experience of mother pigs in this setting. These animals, known for their nurturing instincts, are denied the chance to naturally care for their young after giving birth. Instead, they spend their pregnancies in restrictive metal crates, each one just large enough for them to stand or lie down. The only time they’ll walk is from this cage to another one to give birth. This confinement takes a toll on both their physical and emotional well-being, as they’re unable to move around to care for their young.

Despite the large amount of suffering these emotional and intelligent animals endure, these practices are technically legal in the majority of the United States. This is the reality for pigs on factory farms:

Artificial Insemination and Breeding

Insemination of a pig

Artificial insemination, a process involving the collection of male sperm cells to be manually introduced into a female’s reproductive system, is a common practice across various farmed animals, including cows, pigs, sheep, and turkeys. This technique requires the insertion of a catheter, which is commonly done by inexperienced workers and causes infection. 

The females chosen for breeding repeatedly undergo this process over several years, often resulting in infections and health issues linked to frequent pregnancies.

In the United States’ pig industry, a significant portion of the approximately 6 million female pigs used for breeding are confined to crates for the duration of their lives. After enduring this cycle twice a year for several years, these mother pigs are ultimately slaughtered.

Gestation Crates

This image is representative of a farm that uses gestation crates. Credit Andrew Skowron.

According to experts in animal protection organizations and veterinary care, gestation crates are widely considered one of the worst forms of cruelty to animals. Mother pigs are kept inside these incredibly small crates—only 7 feet by 2 feet in size—for the majority of their lives on factory farms.

The extreme confinement has distressing effects on the pigs. Pigs are intelligent and social animals, and being trapped in these crates causes them a lot of stress and frustration. Some pigs even resort to biting the metal bars of the crates or banging their heads against them in agony.

Physically, the pigs suffer from weak bones and muscles. They also develop problems like abrasions, heart issues, overgrown hooves, digestion problems, and urinary tract issues due to their limited movement. 

While the use of these cages is legal in the majority of the United States, eleven states have eliminated or restricted the use of crates — Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, and Rhode Island. The United Kingdom and Sweden have also joined in banning these crates and they are limited in the European Union. 


Pigs endure a series of painful mutilations through routine procedures. These procedures are often used as shortcuts to manage issues arising from the stressful conditions of factory farms, rather than addressing the physical and psychological harm to these animals:

  • Tail Docking: Tail docking is used to address tail biting, a behavior stemming from the pigs’ stressful and confined living conditions. Unfortunately, this practice ignores the underlying cause of pigs’ distress, such as the camped conditions not allowing any natural behaviors or room to relieve stress.
  • Teeth Clipping: Teeth clipping, which is aimed at preventing injuries during suckling, disregards the pain and complications it imposes on piglets. The absence of proper pain management and care increases animals’ suffering.
  • Lack of Anesthesia: Castration and tail mutilation are conducted without anesthesia or proper veterinary care, inflicting unnecessary pain and suffering on the pigs. Pigs are often left covered in blood and visibly in pain after undergoing castration and tail docking procedures.

The Journey to the Slaughterhouse

a pig on a transport truck biting the bars of the truck

Each day, approximately 160 million animals, including pigs, lambs, cows, and other species, are transported to slaughterhouses.

Apart from being removed from their familiar surroundings, these animals are also forcibly separated from their families and established social circles. Animals are exposed to workers abusing them during loading and unloading, the stress of loud noise during transport, the risk of accidents, exposure to extreme weather, and prolonged periods of hunger and thirst.

During live transports, workers resort to kicks and strikes to force weak, injured, and scared animals onto the truck. The trucks used are often packed to the brim, leaving these animals immobilized and unable to reposition themselves. Animals are subjected to standing in their waste, a situation that sometimes leads to slips on slick surfaces. Certain trucks lack even the basic protection of roofs, leaving the animals exposed to the elements like the scorching sun, rain, or hail. 

In the United States, there’s a regulation known as the 28-hour law that requires transport trucks to stop every 28 hours to let the animals rest. However, enforcement of this law is inconsistent, leading to nearly 5 million pigs, chickens, and cows, to die en route to the slaughterhouse each year. 

Upon reaching their destination, these animals are coerced into jumping from vehicles that lack ramps during the unloading process. Already-wounded animals endure moe injuries while jumping off the truck.

Stunning & Slaughter Methods

For animals killed for food, the law requires them to be stunned before slaughter to prevent unnecessary suffering. However, these methods oftentimes prove to be ineffective, leading to animals being killed while still conscious.

In the case of pigs, stunning is carried out using either an electric current or a high concentration of carbon dioxide gas. The latter approach involves placing groups of pigs into a chamber where the air contains a minimum of 70% carbon dioxide. This method often results in pigs struggling desperately to breathe and attempting to escape. Afterward, the pigs are shackled by one leg, lifted, and have their throats slit—many times while conscious and able to feel the sharp blade.

A recent news article by The New York Times highlights the distressing practices within the pig farming industry and delves into a particularly concerning aspect – the ineffective stunning of pigs. The footage reveals instances where stunning methods are inadequate, leading to animals experiencing pain and suffering. 

Piglet in a factory farm


Pigs, cows, and other animals feel pain and deserve to be protected from abuse.

You can protect these intelligent animals by simply choosing plant‑based alternatives.

Witness the Lives of Farmed Pigs

Throughout numerous undercover investigations, Animal Equality has uncovered the abuse of pigs, both through ‘legal’ farming practices and at the hands of workers.

Animal Equality investigates the cruel journey of animals, including pigs, during transport to farms and slaughterhouses in Mexico
Animal Equality conducts a follow-up investigation from 2019 at a pig farm located in Northern Italy, which is part of a supply chain that produces “high-quality” food products
Animal Equality investigates a pig farm in Mexico

Animal Equality investigates a pig farm in Lombardy, Italy, affiliated with the Bompieri Group, whose products are known through a marketing slogan to be the “Excellence of Made in Italy”
Animal Equality investigates Rastro Municipal Regional in Tizayuca, Hidalgo, Mexico
Animal Equality investigates the P&G Sleigh Pig Unit in Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Animal Equality investigates Zema Srl slaughterhouse located in the province of Cremona in Italy
Animal Equality investigates pig farms in Catalonia, Spain
Animal Equality investigates the cruelty of pig farms in hopes to eliminate cages in the European Union

Animal Equality and Italian journalist Roberta Spinelli visit a pig farm in Brescia, Italy
Animal Equality Investigates a Pig Farm in Brazil

Animal Equality investigates a pig farm in the Northern Italian region of Lombardy between February and April 2019
Animal Equality investigates an Italian slaughterhouse in Lombardy, Italy that claims to produce high-quality products
Actress and animal rights advocate Rooney Mara collaborates with Animal Equality on an undercover investigation titled “With My Own Eyes” inside two US factory farms—one housing mother pigs used for breeding

Animal Equality investigates Fir Tree Pig Farm in Lincolnshire, England, during April and May 2018
Animal Equality investigates two farms located in the provinces of Cuneo and Mantua in Italy
Animal Equality investigates a pig farm endorsed by the Red Tractor certification in the UK
Animal Equality investigates Fir Tree Farm, owned by Elsham Linc, a major pig producer in the UK

Animal Equality investigates government-owned slaughterhouses in the Mexican state of Jalisco
Animal Equality investigates British pig farms in the UK during September and October 2017 

Animal Equality investigates government-owned slaughterhouses in Mexico
Animal Equality investigates Granja Escobar in Spain
Animal Equality investigates three selected UK pig farms from January to May 2016


Animal Equality investigates Spanish pig farms and slaughterhouses from August 2007 to May 2010


Animal Equality investigates the East Anglian Pig Company in the UK
Animal Equality investigates the El Escobar Farm in Fuente Alamo, Murcia, Spain

Making a Difference in the Fight Against Factory Farming

Similar to humans, animals exhibit emotions, nurture their young, and form bonds with others. In the world of factory farming, these essential aspects of their lives are taken away. The agriculture industry dictates their existence, subjecting them to separation, mutilation, and immense suffering.

There is a way to take a stand against this cycle of pain. By signing the End Factory Farming Petition today, you’re standing up against an industry that inflicts pain and suffering on these animals for profit. Your voice can make a difference for these pigs and all creatures trapped in factory farming!