Free-range pigs -- not so happy

The following is informative:

The article is written by James McWilliams, who is an history professor and vegan activist. His Slate article has some obvious flaws.

Though he quotes no less than three animal-welfare advocates, he doesn’t bother to get any quotes from farmers. When we called Jennifer Small at Flying Pigs Farm (a favorite of Peter Hoffman of Savoy, Il Buco, and others), she assured us she doesn’t employ nose rings and takes pains to reseed damaged turf instead. What’s more, she has no trouble buying piglets from other farms that also refrain from ringing. “I don’t think it’s a common thing in the Northeast,” she says, though she admits she’s speaking only from her own experience.

Contrary to the article’s assertion that castration is deeply painful to a pig, Small says, “My husband castrates them and I have to admit I was very surprised that as soon as you put them down they’re running around like nothing happened. They might slow down a little bit for twelve or twenty hours, but it’s surprising how little they seem to be affected.” Which might explain why her vet told her painkillers weren’t necessary. But then why castrate them at all? Small says that aside from “boar taint,” as well as the risk of a female being impregnated shortly before slaughter, uncastrated pigs also tend to fight more often. “Castration may cause them pain when they are young, but if you’ve ever seen boars fight almost to the death, it’s a horrible thing to watch.”

Moreover, earlier op-ed he had published in the New York Times was also criticized for making misleading claims.

He cited a study that found 54 percent of free-range pigs carrying salmonella (a higher rate than factory-farmed pigs) and 2 out of 600 free-range pigs carrying trichinella. Marion Nestle and others argued that McWilliams glossed over the fact that just because an antibody like trichinella is found in a pig’s blood doesn’t mean it’s actually infected with trichinosis, and even if it were, it’s nothing proper cooking couldn’t kill. They also reprimanded him for failing to disclose that the study was funded by the National Pork Board, which they said protected the interest of factory farms (the Times later amended the article with disclosure of this).

Good reasons not to buy worry about free range anything. Back to the bacon factory.

In trying to find information on nose-rings in pigs, I found an article about a free-range farmer in Australia. He does everything by organic standards, but the use of nose-rings keeps his pigs from being certified as organic.

He says that the use of the nose-ring is necessary to keep the pastures from being destroyed, since his animals are larger than most pigs.

So if someone is concerned about nose-rings in pigs, perhaps buying certified organic pork is the answer. Of course, those are Australian standards and I am not sure of the standards in other countries. But a look at the website of an Iowa farm which is certified organic shows numerous photos of pigs without nose-rings.


I remember my dad buying a small farm back in the 1970s. About 40 acres were covered with scrub brush and basically useless. We fenced off part of it and turned several hundred light pigs loose on it. Eventually we rounded them up and tuned loose another herd - after doing this for two years the pigs killed and ate all the scrub brush and eventually rooted out the stumps. We moved the fence to the next section of scrub brush for them to kill and started working the ground they destroyed. Seven years later dad sold that farm and more than tripled his investment. Rooting pigs leave behind moonscape.


Or mis-informative.

spencelo has given us his “opinion” on hunting, bullfighting, and now pork. What’s next?

I’m not sure that a thread on happy, or unhappy pigs should be in the social justice forum.

spencelo: why not post your opinion on pork in the @porkjihad forum?

Not informative at all but it is a good excuse to go out and shoot your own wild boar or feral pig. :thumbsup:

What it sounds really stupid to my is when they complain about castration and spading the females. Human societies force people that adopt new dogs or cats to do that. I have not seen PETA going up in arms against those practices.

I have visited a pig farm in Illinois that is owned by an extended family member. This farm would be called a “factory” as the pigs are penned for their lives. I had lots of apprehension prior to visiting the farm and just knew that I’d come away from the experience vowing to never eat pork again.

The reality is that it was a very beautiful place. The pigs want nothing more than to be penned and they weren’t distressed at all. The farm has about 2,000 pigs at any time that range in age from 0 - 6 months when most of them are sold to be butchered. Naturally there are breeding pigs that are older.

It is contrary to the premises of social justice to ignore the many benefits that God has given us through modern agriculture.

Stressing their animals is the last thing any farmer wants to do to their animals.

Another hack job by someone who thinks he knows what he’s talking about.

Hey Spence, what happened to your other threads?

Sure they do :rolleyes:

They’d much rather be fed boosted grains and pellets in metal crates than behave naturally foraging for their own roots and tubers.

Sarah x :slight_smile:

Well, informative, in that - *I’m a vegan and want the whole world to be vegans but I know no one will listen to me, so I’ll be underhanded and devious and lie and misrepresent the facts my biased research didn’t actually turn up payrolled by my equally biased funders *- kinda way. :shrug:

Sarah x :slight_smile:

I don’t think much of what was saying about pigs ruining the terraine is all true. A young tree will not grow back, but the grass and weeds definitely will. My brother raised a pair of pigs who had 10 piglets. Yeah, the pigs rooted (we actually took the nose rings out of the boar because we wanted him to root out a particular area), but everything grew back like a spreading wildfire. When we first got the pigs, they were young and I penned them in my chicken pen for a couple days. They rooted up everything, but it grew up like a jungle when we moved them to their real “pen” which was an acre large.

Eight out of the ten were boys, and we castrated them a few hours after they were born, and they were running amok and playing with their siblings and their mother as soon as they hit the ground and were fine.

I find that when pigs are unhealthy when freeranged, it’s because their handlers are not careful about what they feed them, and had a neighbor feeding them spoiled food and frozen food that was freezer burned. That’s where the diseases come from. You have to have a bit of common sense and feed them correctly. Yeah, all your kitchen scraps can go to the pigs, and even the chickens, but it can’t be spoiled :rolleyes:

Actually most diseases are carried in by other animals with free range hogs. Deer, birds, rodents and most other animals carry a whole host of diseases that can infect hogs - especially since they have a habit of eating anything that they find. If a deer dies in their field even a small herd will tear it apart and eat it in a matter of hours - a large herd will do it in minutes. Ever seen the series Deadwood?

Or Snatch

What flaws?

Ringing is a common practice, and finding a few counter-examples doesn’t change that fact. Small also admits that she is only speaking from her experiences. As for castration, McWilliams cited an actual scientific study to show that castration causes significant pain, something Small doesn’t actually dispute (“Castration may cause them pain when they are young.”)

I haven’t looked into this, but even if true, it has nothing to do with the Slate article I posted.

Can you point to a single false statement in the article?

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit