If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian - Sir Paul McCartney
It’s been a hot minute; I haven’t written a blog for almost 4 years but I’m here for a really important reason. I’m sharing with you my submission to the Inquiry into pig welfare in Victoria. By sharing this submission publicly here, it may not be protected by parliamentary privilege but I’m prepared to do that if it might encourage you to complete the Pig Welfare Survey or write your own submission before the 12th of January.
To complete the Pig Welfare Survey takes literally a minute. The Farm Transparency Project suggests completing the survey like so to have the greatest impact for pigs:
To complete the Pig Welfare Survey, visit:
Last year I wrote my first submission to the Inquiry to ban native duck shooting. I think this is a really powerful form of animal rights activism. There are various groups including Animal Justice Party and the Farm Transparency Project who we owe huge thanks for even achieving this Victorian Government Inquiry. I feel the very least I can do is write a submission. But it’s not easy, to write a formal document without a template - it actually takes some time, so I’m sharing mine with you so it might help you structure a submission and submit it before the closure date.
This two page document actually took me four days to write, as I was overcome with emotion on my first attempt and needed a few days to recover. I’m not sure if it will hold much weight at all in the inquiry but I feel the small satisfaction of having spoken on behalf of the voiceless:
3 January 2023
To Whom It May Concern,
I am writing to express my concern about the current welfare of pigs in Victoria.
My name is Meg Barber. I am a Clinical Psychologist employed in a public health service in Geelong. My area of specialisation and expertise is in the assessment and treatment of trauma and persistent pain.
I am making this submission to express my profound disgust in relation to the disregard and contempt shown to pigs by those in the industry. If we are to continue to raise pigs to be killed for food, the least ethical standard would surely include not traumatising them in a life of confinement, unable to turn around in sow stalls and farrowing crates, and then torturing them to death in C02 gas chambers? I recommend the total ban of sow stalls and farrowing crates in pig factory farms and C02 gas chambers in all Victorian slaughterhouses. Victoria, as the progressive state, should be leading the way for the nation to ban these cruel and inhumane, yet standard practices that are preferable to the industry.
Pigs are very clean maternal animals. Their intelligence and innate curiosity has been proved by behavioural research to be akin to that of a 4 year old child. My interactions with pigs and their babies, including most recently at an animal sanctuary with a pig as the namesake, Edgars Mission, demonstrate to me the intelligence, maternal bonds and sentience of pigs. Pigs are equally as motivated evolutionarily, physiologically and psychologically, to preserve the lives of themselves and their offspring as we humans are. Mammals, like pigs, experience pain and suffering similarly to humans beings as we share similar nervous systems. For these reasons, among many others, I wish to express a few reasons why I believe the Victorian government must now ban the use of sow stalls, farrowing crates and C02 gas chambers to conserve the welfare of pigs.
Their Life: Current Pig Breeding and Housing Practices
Currently 90% of pigs bred for their flesh in Australia are raised in factory farms. Pigs in factory farms lead miserable lives in horrific conditions, which have been well documented in Australia by various animal rights and welfare organisations.
The breeding of pigs is primarily facilitated through artificial insemination. Male pigs, boars, are subjected to the masturbation by a human hand up to 3 times every week. The legally accepted space requirement for boars confined in stalls is 0.7 metres by 2.4 metres long. Sows are artificially inseminated using boar semen, at which time they are confined to mating stalls, sometimes known as a “rape rake” for the process, which can take as long as 10 minutes. Bestiality is a criminal offence under the Crimes Act 1958; however, for the purpose of animal agriculture, these laws do not apply. As someone who frequently treats human beings who have been sexually abused, I can attest to the profound degradation and traumatisation of this sort of grotesque misuse of sexual reproduction. The sexual abuse of women and children is no longer acceptable within our modern society and can no longer be tolerated for the sake of commerce within the pig industry.
Once impregnated, a female pig is confined within a metal and cement pen known as a sow stall. The stalls are not much larger than the sows themselves, only allowing approximately 1 step forward or backward and not even room to turn around. The minimum legally required space for a sow kept in a sow stall is floor space of 0.6m wide and 2.2m long. When a sow is close to giving birth, it is standard industry practice to move her into a farrowing crate. A farrowing crate is a small metal cage in which sows are confined while they give birth and nurse their piglets until they are moved to ‘weaner’ pens. A farrowing crate affords little room to do anything; generally they can take one step forward or backward or lay on the concrete floor so their piglets can nurse from them, but they still can not turn around. As someone considering starting a family of my own this year, I can barely image the psychological distress of not being afforded basic movement and to nest and nurse my babies in the way I am biologically compelled. This is an inhumane deprivation of the most basic of needs for nursing pigs. Disgracefully, these basic needs are currently considered inferior to industry profits.
Their Death: C02 Gas Chambers
Currently, between 85%-90% of Australian pigs are paralysed using CO2 gas. Most Australian slaughterhouses now use CO2 gas chambers to render pigs unconscious prior to slitting their throats. The pigs are exposed to the gas for around 4 minutes. In most cases, this is long enough that they are functionally dead - making gas chambers a form of killing, rather than purely a stunning method. Footage captured by activists from five Australian gas chambers from between January and July 2023 showed pigs being kicked, and forced into the C02 gas chamber, as well as horrendous injuries caused by the machinery. At all of the slaughterhouses investigated, pigs were seen screaming, thrashing, gasping and trying to escape from inside the gas chamber gondola, as they slowly suffocated.
Indeed, I watched this footage on the ABC 7:30 Report episode last year, which showed plainly the numerous instances of pigs frantic fight to escape the chamber, gasping for air and screaming in agony. I doubt one has to have a Masters degree in psychology to understand this but pigs will always attempt flee from a perceived threat; this is well established physiological and psychological science. The fact that slaughterhouse workers often have to physically assault pigs to get them into the chambers is further evidence of both their innate understanding of threat and danger to their life and their motivation to avoid this horrendous death.
While the industry claims that gas chambers are the most humane method of stunning when dealing with a large number of pigs, in reality, gassing pigs only has one benefit to the industry - it’s the most efficient method of immobilising pigs for slaughter, meaning that they are able to kill more pigs at a faster rate. This industry has proven themselves incapable of self-regulating even the most basic of animal welfare standards, including their total failure to complete an industry-led phase of out of sow stalls since 2017. Therefore, it is imperative that this and all other animal agriculture industries be stringently independently regulated through the process of banning sow stalls, farrowing crates and C02 gas chambers. After further evidence of systematic animal abuse in Tasmanian slaughterhouses was published in mass media in December 2023, there are renewed calls for the Tasmanian government to enforce state-wide mandatory CCTV in all animal factory farms and slaughterhouses. I think this should be considered by the Victorian government as a minimum industry standard. If the industry don’t have anything to hide, why should they oppose CCTV?
Since witnessing the footage of pigs being tortured to death in C02 gas chambers on the ABC 7:30 Report, I personally have suffered significant post-traumatic symptoms including intrusive flashbacks and periods of significant psychological distress. This is a normal trauma response to horrific traumatic imagery - namely, torture - of another being that we can empathise with.
Whilst the animals are the primary victims and most worthy of our advocacy for industry-wide change, this industry also traumatises humans. I have friends and indeeds several prior patients, mostly of profoundly disadvantaged backgrounds, that have been both traumatised psychologically and injured physically working in this industry. It has been my observation that this industry doesn’t care for the rights or even the most basic welfare of the pigs it uses as commodities, nor the workers that it employs to do its dirty work.
I urge you to please consider banning sow stalls, farrowing crates and C02 gas chambers as a matter of urgency. This industry-wide change must be enforced by measures including but not limited to, CCTV in factory farms and slaughterhouses to monitor systematic malpractice and an independent regulatory body to monitor and audit compliance in relation to the basic welfare of all Victorian pigs.
Thank you for daring to care about the lives and deaths of some of the most disregarded sentient beings on Earth. I am willing to discuss my submission at the Inquiry into pig welfare in Victoria.
To complete your own submission to the inquiry, visit:
I recommend using the following resources to help you write:
Thank you for reading and daring to care.
From my loving heart to yours,