How to support higher welfare this Year of the Pig

Pork RSPCA Approved / 26th Feb 2019

2019 is the Year of the Pig, and we’re looking forward to celebrating these intelligent, inquisitive animals over the next 12 months.  

Did you know though that many pork products, including bacon and salami, are made using pork from pigs farmed in conditions that don’t meet their behavioural needs? Most pigs (in Australia and overseas) are kept indoors in barren pens, often without bedding and in crowded conditions. Even sow-stall free, while it’s a very positive first step, isn’t always a guarantee of good welfare. In sow-stall free systems, pigs can still be kept in barren environments and sows (mother pigs) can still be confined to farrowing crates (similar to sow stalls) for a couple of weeks at a time to give birth to their piglets.

If pork is one of your favourites, fear not. There are farmers committed to raising their pigs to higher animal welfare standards. As consumers we have an important role to play in supporting these farmers and shouldn’t underestimate the power we have to improve welfare by voting with our wallets.

Here are three things you might not know about our curly-tailed friends that we think make supporting higher welfare farming worthwhile:

Pigs are clever, curious animals who like to explore, forage and play
Pigs are very curious and enjoy exploring their surroundings, using their incredibly sensitive snout to dig and forage. For good welfare, it’s important that pigs have the space to do this, whether it’s roaming the paddock or playing with others in a deep straw-filled shelter. They also need a dry place to lay comfortably and rest properly.

Without the right environment that encourages pigs to express their natural behaviours, pigs can become bored and aggressive towards each other. Pig farmers routinely perform painful procedures on piglets, such as teeth clipping and tail docking, as a means to limit injuries.

There’s a clever reason why pigs like rolling in mud!
That saying, ‘happy as a pig in mud’ is based on fact – pigs really do like to wallow in mud. They do this for a few different reasons.

A wallow is a shallow depression containing muddy water in which a pig will often dig and root before entering to cover themselves in mud.

Wallowing – and applying a protective coating of mud – serves to protect pigs from sunburn, flies and external parasites. It is also a social activity, and most pigs will wallow in a group if they are able to.

Pigs love company
Pigs are able to lead rich social lives, and form close bonds with each other when provided with the right environment.

Of course, it’s important that group make-up includes consideration of pig familiarity, their physical sizes, the number of pigs as well as ensuring the environment provides space and opportunity to both play and rest so that they don’t become aggressive towards each other.

What to look for to support higher welfare
There’s always a focus on providing for the pig’s wellbeing on RSPCA Approved farms. RSPCA Approved pork comes from pigs raised with space to roam and move freely so pigs can exercise, socialise, forage and play. Good quality bedding is provided so that all pigs have a comfortable area to rest and allows sows to build nests for their piglets. Painful procedures such as teeth clipping, tail docking and castration are not allowed on RSPCA Approved farms.

The RSPCA Approved Farming Scheme standards for pigs take into account the natural behaviours of pigs, and ensure that housing and husbandry practices on farm enhance pig welfare. Being RSPCA Approved also means regular on-farm assessments by specialised assessors who visit farms at least twice a year (with additional unscheduled visits) to verify compliance.

** Watch our video about what life is like for pigs on RSPCA Approved farms

RSPCA Approved Farming: Pigs

Want more? Here’s how to shop ethically and support your local and 6 reasons to choose RSPCA Approved pork at Coles


  1. I’m very confused about this – So it’s okay to kill innocent animals as long as we let them run around. Who gives you a right to say what you can and can’t do to another living being?

    • Marleen Paulus says:

      sure, it is the best not to eat animal products at all and go for vegan life style… but there are a lot of people who do not want to give up meat… and if we raise animals to feed on them, the least we can do is provide them with a nice, healthy life, or not???

    • The RSPCA wants to improve animal welfare for as many animals as possible. It’s important that this includes the millions of animals that are on Australian farms every day. While the RSPCA respects the choices of people who don’t use and consume animal products, the reality is that the vast majority of Australians do. This means that for as long as people continue to use and consume animal products, the RSPCA has a key role to play in improving how farm animals are treated today by constantly pushing for better animal welfare standards on farm.

  2. That’s exactly what went through my mind as I listened to the farmers. I’m glad we have at least persuaded them to let the pigs live a happy life but, yes, why do we need to kill innocent animals in order to make money. The is no need to kill for food in this Age. All protein can be manufactured. It’s just a matter of getting used to the taste.
    What used to be a necessity in order for us to live is no longer an excuse for murder. And it’s worse than murder because it involves massive cruelty beforehand.

    • Hi Karen, whilst the RSPCA isn’t a vegan or vegetarian organisation, we respect the choices of people who don’t use and consume animal products. However the vast majority of Australians do and we want those Australians to know that it’s important they support more humane farming systems to improve the welfare of farm animals. This means that for as long as people continue to use and consume animal products, the RSPCA has a key role to play in improving how farm animals are treated today by constantly pushing for better animal welfare standards on farm.

  3. I am also confused at the attitude of the RSPCA. It’s ok to raise them in “humane” conditions is it ok to slaughter them by gassing where they can take up to 3 minutes to die. Is that humane RSPCA??????

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