Standard practice (mutilation): piglets

Last updated 4 September 2020

Pigs are forced to endure several painful mutilations in their shortened lives without any pain relief. 

Ear cutting (notching) 

Ear cutting, or "notching,” is carried out as a means of identifying pigs and piglets. This procedure occurs without anesthetic and involves cutting out pieces of piglets' ears in their first few days of life. 

Other ways pig operators mark or identify pigs is with tattoos, ear tags, or by spray painting them.

Tail cutting

According to the industry, tail cutting (or docking as they refer to it) is performed to reduce tail biting between piglets and pigs and is a common issue in all housing systems. The reality is that pigs are driven to tail biting due to the stressful, boring, and overcrowded conditions. 

Activists have found farms where pigs have extensive injuries to their backsides from other pigs chewing on them, even though they have had their tails "trimmed.”

Teeth cutting 

The industry refers to the cutting of newborn piglets’ teeth as ‘clipping’. The piglets have their teeth cut in order to not damage their mother’s teats and udder. 

Once again, this behaviour occurs due to the conditions the pigs live in. In natural conditions, a mother pig would be able to move or push her piglets away if they were causing her pain or discomfort. In the pig industry, 95% of mother pigs are kept in farrowing crates, where they are unable to turn around, let alone move away from their piglets.


Male piglets may be castrated (have their testicles removed) without anesthetic. This is a painful and stressful procedure carried out in the first few days of their life.

Killing sick or injured piglets

Piglets less than 15kgs in weight and three weeks in age can be killed via blunt trauma to the head, which the Model Code of Practice states can be carried out with a “hammer or other suitable solid heavy object”. A common method of doing this is by holding the piglets’ hind legs and slamming their heads onto a metal bar or the concrete floor.