In my opinion there was an enormous amount of avoidable suffering on this pig unit.


1.      The staff did not know how to handle sows or piglets humanely.  There was too much use of electric prods.  With some planning and a little patience, sows could have been moved around the facility and into farrowing crates without the use of force and certainly without the use of electric prods.  The handler should have a board approximately the width of the passageways so that he/she can walk behind the sow with the board across the passageway.  The sow then cannot turn back and can be encouraged to move forward by simply patting her rump and throwing the odd food pellet ahead of her.


2.      The incidence of birth canal prolapse was very high.  Also it seemed that prolapsed sows were not receiving any veterinary care.  There was some evidence that prolapsed sows were getting inappropriate treatment.  Prolapse is an exceedingly painful condition and affected sows should have received immediate attention.


3.      There was also a high incidence of severe pressure sores on the shoulders of sows.  Since lactating sows spend a great deal of time lying down, this meant that they would be in pain for much of the time.  A possible solution to this would be to use rubber mats in the gestation and farrowing crates.  It would be important that the mats were of a length such that the sow’s body was cushioned when she was lying but did not get soiled with spilled food or water or contaminated with urine or faeces.


4.      The methods used for killing sick and injured piglets were wrong and would lead to tremendous suffering before the piglets actually died.  There is a method for killing piglets in which the handler grips both hind legs of the piglet and swings it hard at the concrete floor so that the back of its head hits the floor.  This method requires some strength and a good deal of skill since it is essential that the piglet’s skull hits the floor first and sufficient brain damage is caused to immediately render it unconscious with death following very quickly.  There is a tool on the market called the Zephyr, which is a hand-held instrument that operates by air-pressure.  The piglet to be killed is restrained on its belly on a hard surface and the muzzle of the Zephyr is placed on top of its head.  When the trigger is pulled a piston hits the skull with sufficient force to immediately render the piglet unconscious and to kill it.  Very little strength is required so that a woman can use the instrument; the piglet has to be restrained and a trigger pulled, that is all.  Using this instrument guarantees a humane death for the piglet.    



My qualifications for giving these opinions are as follows.  I have a BSc in Agriculture with Honours in Animal Husbandry.  I have a PhD in Animal Welfare.  I have been studying the welfare of farm animals since 1965 and have published over 160 papers on animal welfare in scientific journals.




Ian J.H. Duncan

Professor Emeritus

Emeritus Chair in Animal Welfare

Department of Animal Biosciences

University of Guelph