Pigs outsmart people by staging nightly escapes


Some factory-farmed mother pigs are proving their intelligence by breaking out of their cages each night

Three out of four mother pigs are kept in small, barren cages for their entire adult lives and deprived of their basic needs.

One of our global farm animal advisors, Kate Blaszak, recently visited a new farm in Thailand to get to know their systems and meet the farm workers and animals. While at the farm, she heard a story that perfectly summed up the intelligence of pigs. "It brought a big smile to my face" she said.

Each morning, when the farm staff started work, they would find around 40 of the barn’s 360 mother pigs quietly roaming around the barn together in the morning light.

A mother pig in enriched group housing with access to straw. Clean mother pigs’ bodies can be an indicator of adequate temperature (comfort zone) and space per mother pig.

They’d outsmarted the farm staff and jumped out of their cages some time during the night. These pigs would be returned to their cages every morning, only to embark on another night time adventure at the first opportunity.

These highly intelligent animals knew exactly what they wanted and figured out how to get it. They wanted to express their natural behaviour and weren’t happy to remain confined. 

Wild at heart

The majority of the world's pork comes from factory farms, with most pigs living in conditions as unnatural as we can imagine. But that doesn’t mean that pigs have forgotten their natural instincts.

Kate details a study which took place in 1989 to further this point.

"A. Stolba and D. G. M. Wood-Gush, who could be thought of as the ‘Jane Goodalls of pigs’, published a seminal piece of research.

To understand what domestic pigs would do if returned to their natural, wild environment, they released a small group of pigs into a woodland area.

Unsurprisingly, the domestic pigs acted like their wild counterparts. They foraged about in the forest floor, looking for nuts, roots, plants and insects to eat. They turned the soil and explored with their powerful snouts.

The mother pigs stayed together in groups to protect their young, and created comfortable beds, hollowed out and soft, to rest, sleep on and give birth. They sheltered under the trees and wallowed in the mud when it was hot. They laid out in the sun to warm up when it was cold."

A mother pig in enriched group housing with straw. Not ear notched.

These incredibly strong needs cannot be bred out of pigs, even over thousands of years of domestication. Pigs need to perform these natural behaviours to have a good life.

Sign our petition for mother pigs

Unfortunately, these basic needs are denied to millions of pigs on factory farms.

When those mother pigs jumped out of their cages, they were sending a clear message to the farm workers; they need to express their natural behaviour and they want a life worth living.

As part of our Raise pigs right campaign, we’re calling on producers around the world to adopt higher welfare for their pigs.

Please support our campaign by signing our petition and help us move the world's largest pig producers to raise pigs right.