About pigs

Piglet in mud

Pigs wallow in mud to control their body temperature

Pigs have always suffered from a bad press. Despite their reputation for gluttony and dirtiness, a lesser known quality is their intelligence.

Where are pigs from?

Pigs are believed to have been domesticated from wild boar as early as 9000 years ago. They were originally native to Europe and parts of Asia but have, over the centuries, been introduced to many parts of the world.

Most pigs live as livestock, but some have become feral, having escaped from farms or been deliberately introduced into the wild for hunting. Some breeds of pig, such as the Asian pot-bellied pig, are kept as pets.

The natural life of pigs

These free-range pigs have a great amount of freedom.

Pigs are naturally omnivorous and will eat both plants and small animals. In the wild they will forage for leaves, grass, roots, fruits and flowers.

Because of their foraging abilities, and an excellent sense of smell, pigs are used to hunt truffles in some parts of Europe.

This level of freedom to express their natural behaviour is not the experience of most pigs today.

Pig farming today

Around 1.3 billion pigs are slaughtered annually for meat worldwide. The majority of these are in East Asia, particularly China, which rears around half of the world’s pigs. This is followed by the EU, North America, Vietnam and Brazil. The majority of pigs are reared for meat and a smaller number are kept for breeding. 

Whilst some pigs are kept free-range and in back yards in many developing countries, at least half of the world’s pig meat is produced from intensive systems.

Intensive pig farming

This footage shows potentially upsetting scenes of animal suffering.

Undercover footage from Eastern and Southern Europe.

In intensive systems, pregnant sows are often confined in narrow crates, unable to move freely.

The piglets reared for meat are often mutilated, without anaesthetic, and kept in concrete sheds without bedding.

This shift away from traditional pig farming to large-scale intensive methods has resulted in significant concerns for the welfare of millions of pigs throughout the world.


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