One of the most iconic features of pigs is their curly tails. In fact, they even wag their tails when they are happy or excited. What you may not realize is there aren’t many pigs running around with tails these days.
Sadly, the majority of today’s pigs have their tails removed when they are just a few days to a few weeks old. Farmers call this tail docking or clipping. The reason? Tail biting. Some pigs repeatedly chew and bite the tails of other pigs, which can lead to painful injuries. The reasons for this tail-biting behavior are complex and there are many contributing factors, but it’s commonly found in pigs housed indoors where stocking densities are high and the pens are barren.
But at Whole Foods Market®, we do things a little differently. Not only do our pork suppliers have to meet our Whole Foods Market’s meat requirements of no animal byproducts in feed and no antibiotics – ever, but we also require all our suppliers to be certified to the Global Animal Partnership’s 5-Step™ Animal Welfare Rating Program. One of those standards (and there are over 110 standards for pork suppliers!) is that routine tail docking is prohibited. That means our pigs are raised with their curly tails intact!
If you’re wondering if these pigs experience lots of tail biting, I’m here to tell you, they don’t! That’s because Global Animal Partnership standards focus on animal welfare. It’s required that pigs are given lots of bedding in their pens (not usually provided at conventional farms) and have the space they need to move around without being crammed together. Plus, farrowing and gestation crates are never used.
At Step 2 and higher, pigs are provided enrichments, such as straw or hay bales, which encourage them to root around. It’s well known that in natural settings pigs will spend up to 50% of their day rooting and foraging for food, so these enrichments really encourage their natural behavior to shine. By giving them extra space and a more enriched environment, the pigs don’t spend time chewing each other’s tails. A win-win for the pigs!
We don’t think tail docking is necessary and we support Global Animal Partnership’s standards that prohibit it. What do you think?
Blog Updated on 2/20/2015.