People who’ve spent time around pigs will tell you that they are playful and compassionate, bond with other pigs, are protective parents, have dreams, and are extremely intelligent. These exceptional animals even enjoy listening to music.
With World Animal Day set for October 4, those are just a few reasons to keep pigs in mind. Another underscores the mission of the day: to raise the status of animals in order to improve welfare standards around the globe, including in Cambodia.
Last April, PETA revealed disturbing footage taken inside a Phnom Penh pig slaughterhouse. What it showed is typical when pigs aren’t treated as the sentient individuals that they are.
Workers were filmed bashing them in the head repeatedly with hard metal pipes – two men struck one pig six times – before slitting their throats. Some were still conscious after being beaten – they were seen moving from side to side as they were cut open.
Slaughtered in full view of one another, some of these sensitive animals were forced to watch the bloodbath for more than six hours – six – before they, too, were butchered.
Their suffering, though, didn’t begin at the slaughterhouse.
Pigs, who experience fear and feel pain just as dogs, cats, and you and I do, spend their lives in cramped, squalid warehouses, where they’re denied everything that’s natural and important to them: They can’t explore, take a mud bath, build a nest, or choose a mate.
Sows are artificially inseminated over and over again, only to have their babies stolen from them when they’re as young as 10 days old.
In extremely crowded conditions, piglets are prone to stress-related behaviour such as cannibalism and tail-biting, so their tails are chopped off and the ends of their teeth are broken off – without painkillers. Males are castrated, again without painkillers, and unwanted “runts” are usually killed, often by having their heads slammed into the floor.
Pigs are often improperly stunned at the slaughterhouse, which means that they are still conscious when they’re dumped into scalding-hot water to remove their hair.
When left in peace, pigs can live as long as 12 years. But when raised for their flesh, they’re only 4 to 6 months old at slaughter time.
It’s not just pigs who suffer at the hands of the meat industry. The 2009 swine flu pandemic killed five people and sickened nearly 500 others in Cambodia, and with the demand for pork increasing – nearly 2.5 million pigs are slaughtered every year – the government is concerned about more outbreaks. The threat prompted a warning last year from the Health Ministry.
Meat consumption has also been linked to heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. In 2015, the World Health Organization classified processed meats, including twa ko, as carcinogenic.
World Animal Day presents an opportunity to do something about all this. By switching to healthy, humane vegan foods, we not only help ourselves, we can also save the lives of the countless pigs, cows, chickens, and other animals who are slaughtered every year.
The world will be a much better place for it.
Jason Baker is PETA Asia’s vice president of international campaigns. For more information on the organisation’s work in Thailand and throughout Asia, please visit PETAAsia.com