Pigs are highly intelligent, sociable animals with an amazing sense of smell.
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 in the world today are farmed pigs, 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. Because of their foraging abilities, and an excellent sense of smell, pigs are used to hunt for truffles in some parts of Europe.
The natural life of pigs
In natural conditions, pigs live in small social groups, consisting of a few sows with their young. They range over hundreds of kilometres and spend much of their day foraging and rooting for food.
Pigs are naturally omnivorous and will eat both plants and small animals; they will forage for leaves, grass, roots, fruits and flowers. Pigs make nests to sleep in and dig out mud wallows when they need to cool down.
This level of freedom to express their natural behaviour is not the experience of most pigs today.
Pig farming today
Around 1.4 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.
In intensive systems, sows (mother pigs) are often confined in narrow crates, unable to move freely, when they are pregnant and nursing their piglets.
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.