The Life of a Pig in a Factory Farm

Pig in a crate

Born into suffering

On a factory farm, a piglet is born to a mother trapped in a metal cage so small she can only move her body a few inches to the side and back. Rather than beginning his life in a comfortable grass nest that his mother would have carefully constructed for him, the piglet is instead born into a dark and dirty shed that confines dozens of mother pigs in similar tiny cages.

Because of his mother’s extreme confinement, she’s prevented from caring properly for the piglet, who nurses and sleeps next to her as feces, urine, and other waste pile up around him. One of his siblings, who’s smaller and weaker than the rest, dies slowly on the floor near him. His mother is helpless to intervene when, at just a few days old, a farm worker grabs him, hangs him upside down, and castrates him by cutting into his body with no anesthesia. The worker then cuts his tail and his teeth while he screams in pain.

At just four weeks old, the piglet is taken away from his mother and moved to a pen with other piglets. After a couple of months, he is brought to the fattening pens where he’ll be the remainder of his life until he grows to around 280 pounds–slaughter weight. He develops painful cramps and diarrhea from bacteria that is passed between the pigs in stressful conditions. There’s nothing to do but fight, eat, and sleep in the pens. He suffers from wounds and torn ears, for which he never receives any veterinary care.


Six months after being born, he is sent to slaughter at a mere fraction of his 18-year lifespan. He’s beaten and prodded to force him to move onto a truck. where he’s packed shoulder to shoulder with other pigs and transported for 36 hours without food or water. Depending on the time of year, he’s exposed to extreme heat or cold. Some of the pigs on the truck die before they reach the slaughterhouse. When he arrives, he’s exhausted, afraid, hungry, and thirsty.

He’s kicked and shocked by slaughterhouse workers as he is moved into a pen. Here, the pig waits for hours as he listens to the screams of those who are being killed inside. He’s still a baby when his short life is ended on the slaughterhouse floor.


When a female pig is born on a factory farm, she doesn’t fare any better. Many are sent to slaughter, but those used for breeding endure a different set of abuses. Her life is a constant cycle of repeated pregnancies and births, bringing more and more pigs into the world to be fattened and killed for meat.

As soon as she is old enough to get pregnant, a young female pig is forcefully impregnated by artificial insemination. A week before giving birth, a farm worker opens her cage and starts beating her with an iron rod to make her walk toward another shed on the farm. It’s the first time she’s able to walk around outside of her cage, and she is confused and afraid. She doesn’t understand what the worker wants or why she’s being beaten. When she goes in the opposite direction, the worker jams his fingers into her eye to force her to turn. She tries to move away from the intense pain. After a few minutes she is confined again in another cage where, seven days later, she gives birth to twelve piglets–her first of many litters.

She is as intelligent and curious as a dog or a child, but she’s immobilized as her piglets nurse, unable to do anything except obsessively bite the bars as the stress and boredom become unbearable—one of the only ways she can deal with her frustration and despair. She will live for five years this way–moving ceaselessly from cage to cage and experiencing pregnancy after pregnancy. And when she’s no longer productive, she is sent to slaughter like all the other pigs before her.

Pig farm investigations highlights

Animal Equality investigators work all over the world to expose the lives pigs on factory farms are forced to endure and raise public awareness, improve laws protecting pigs, and demand consequences for acts of cruelty and neglect on pig farms.

Pigs mutilated in Mexico (2022)

Animal Equality documented several farms in Jalisco, the state with the largest number of pigs for the meat industry. Our investigators found piglets covered in blood after undergoing castrations and tail amputations with no anesthesia. Pigs were observed with untreated injuries, skin and eye infections, and swollen, infected udders. Unsafe and poorly maintained facilities led to injuries where piglets fell into cracks in the concrete flooring resulting in entrapment and broken bones.

Pigs bludgeoned with hammers in the UK (2021)

Our investigators documented farm workers beating piglets to death with hammers or slamming them on the floor until they died. Mother pigs had severe infections from repeated pregnancies and were denied veterinary care.

The owner of the farm P&G Sleigh was an influential figure in the United Kingdom’s meat industry. At the time of the investigation, he was the government-appointed Chairman of the Pigs Standard Setting Committee of Quality Meat Scotland (QMS). As a result of our investigation, which was published in The Times, he resigned from his position and is under criminal investigation.

National media highlights pig cruelty in Italy (2021)

Animal Equality collaborated with a national Italian media outlet to bring to light the suffering of pigs raised for meat on a farm in Northern Italy. This region markets its products with the stamp of “excellence of Made in Italy,” but our investigators found pigs covered in feces and urine living in pens contaminated by sewage and infested with rodents and insects. Workers dragged pigs by their legs with ropes and abandoned sick pigs to die slowly. Animal Equality lodged a formal complaint against the owner of this farm.

Sick pigs living with dead companions (2018)

At the Hermanos Carrasco Farm in Spain, our investigators witnessed the pigs held in pens with the rotting corpses of dead pigs, and many pigs had severe infections, large hernias, and skin ulcers covered in flies. Pigs were so overcrowded that weakened animals unable to stand were trampled, and pigs were so hungry that they were forced to resort to cannibalism. This farm supplied the international meat company El Pozo, whose products were stocked in major UK retailers.

Animal Equality collaborated with the Spanish television program Salvados for the investigation, and our footage was seen all over Spain. We filed a criminal complaint and the case will now be going to court.

Pigs stabbed with pitchforks (2018)

At Fir Tree Farm in the United Kingdom, we documented workers stabbing pigs with pitchforks, kicking them in the face, and slamming their heads in gates. Animal Equality filmed repeated acts of violence on this farm, which is owned by one of the biggest producers in the UK. Over ten days, our cameras captured workers kicking pigs in over 100 occasions, hitting pigs on their heads with heavy boards, and spraying paint directly up a pig’s nose. Thanks to our investigation and legal complaint three workers were convicted of criminal charges.

Shocking violations in Mexican slaughterhouses (2016)

We investigated 21 slaughterhouses in Mexico across seven states and repeated violations of the Federal Animal Health Law. Pigs were fully conscious when killed, and in most cases were stabbed more than once before bleeding to death. Workers electrocuted pigs, beat them with axes, and overcrowded killing pens, resulting in some pigs being trampled as others tried to escape.

In response to our investigation and after we campaigned for a year in Jalisco, the state where many slaughterhouses are located, an overwhelming majority of lawmakers approved legislation that makes cruelty to farmed animals in Jalisco a crime.

Historic prosecution and sentence for animal abusers in Spain (2012)

In one of the most important animal abuse cases ever in Spain, Animal Equality documented workers beating pigs with iron bars, stabbing them with swords, and then mocking their suffering at El Escobar farm. A pregnant pig was cut open while still alive to remove her piglets and left to die in agony.

Animal Equality reported these crimes and presented evidence to the authorities. As a result and for the first time in Spain four workers were convicted of cruelty to farmed animals and given the maximum allowable sentence under the law.

Pig farm closed in the UK (2012)

Animal Equality conducted a two-month investigation at Harling Farm, a “Quality Assured” pig farm. Our investigator filmed over 200 hours of video showing the farm workers separating piglets separated from their mothers and throwing and kicking them across floors. The mother pigs were so stressed due to the confinement and boredom that they were repeatedly biting the bars of their cages. Other pigs were left severely bruised and bloody by the beatings. Some pigs who were ill were thrown into bins full of dead animals while still alive and experienced prolonged deaths.

Because of Animal Equality’s investigation, the abusers were prosecuted and convicted for criminal animal cruelty and the farm was finally closed.

What You Can Do

Our work has resulted in landmark convictions, new laws to protect pigs, and growing public awareness about how pigs suffer in the meat industry. For every victory, we know there’s another farm where pigs need our help and yours too.

You can help pigs by leaving animal products off your plate. You can also share our work widely so others learn about how the meat industry treats pigs.