Donald Broom on Pig Welfare

Conversations with Clive: #2
April 22, 2022

Donald Broom is Colleen Macleod Professor of Animal Welfare (Emeritus) in the Centre for Animal Welfare and Anthrozoology within the Department of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Cambridge.

In April 2022, Prof. Broom talked to Clive Phillips for the Conversation with Clive series. In this series, leading farm animal welfare scientists and academic experts share with Clive Phillips their thoughts and experience of farm animal welfare issues, including those related to intensive animal farming systems, and developing countries. These 30-minute recorded dialogues are aimed at upskilling advocacy organizations concerned with farm animal welfare, helping them gain a more nuanced understanding of welfare issues from academics with deep knowledge of animal agriculture systems and direct experience of practices.

Timing of key topics discussed in the 38 minutes conversation:

  • 00:43 Broom's interest in assessing the welfare of confined farm animals.
  • 02:00 Pigs are very bright, complex, social animals that consumers want to see treated well.
  • 03:00 The worst pig welfare problem is their living condition and confinement because it affects their entire life.
  • 03:50 Pig rearing changed since 1950, getting worse for the pigs, but in some countries there have been significant recent improvements in housing and practices.
  • 06:00 A small number of pigs are kept free range around the world, but all countries have some amount of intensively-kept pigs.
  • 07:00 Customers want sustainability including in pig production.
  • 07:40 The worst thing for pigs is confined conditions and being housed individually as pigs are social animals.
  • 09:20 Sows squashing piglets happens only in confined space; viable alternatives to farrowing crates exist.
  • 12:45 Welfare and diseases of free range outdoor pigs; fencing against wild boar.
  • 16:36 In disease outbreaks there are ways to slaughter large numbers of animals without causing lots of suffering to the animals.
  • 19:23 Problems with rearing piglets: castrations and teeth-clipping should be done with analgesics and anesthetics; tail-docking should not be done routinely as it causes long-term pain; tail-biting can be avoided and happens solely because of poor environmental conditions and high density.
  • 25:00 Giving pigs more space improves pig welfare while costing farmers more money, but more consumers are now saying they will not buy pig meat unless the pigs are kept in good welfare conditions, and this is driving farmers to change; welfare of pigs is a major sustainability issue for consumers in Brazil.
  • 27:42 Hanging tires is not enough to improve pig welfare.
  • 29:20 Transporting pigs is more difficult than transporting cattle and sheep because transport has greater welfare impact on pigs; pigs' physiological response to transportation shows up in negative quality of pig meat; everyone in the transport chain needs to be involved; motion sickness.
  • 33:38 The best systems of rearing pigs are enormously better than the worst systems.
  • 34:38 The future: Feed pigs with resources that humans cannot eat (e.g. leaves), but must make sure that this does not spread diseases; heat treatment of food waste as pig feed is legal only in countries such as Japan and South Korea; pigs will likely continue to be used, but perhaps there will a bit less pig production.
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