Our role

The state and territory member Societies provide services to animals in need through their shelters and inspectorates. In the national office, RSPCA Australia works to influence animal welfare policy, practice and legislation across the country
Go to Our role

Key issues

The RSPCA advocates for the welfare of animals across a number of industries, issues and platforms. Help from our supporters is important to progress change. Working together is key.
Go to Key issues
take action live sheep export alternate
Priority issue
Australia is closer than it has ever…
Live sheep export

Support us

Whether you're an individual or a business, there are multiple ways you can support the RSPCA
Go to Support us
An animal in the RSPCA care being cared for by an RSPCA vet
Donate now to support your local RSPCA and make a difference to animal welfare across Australia


The RSPCA is an independent, community-based charity providing animal care and protection services across the country.
Go to About
about us national statistics
Read our National Statistics
Compiled on a national basis by RSPCA…
Annual statistics


By choosing adoption, you’ll not only have the chance to make a friend for life, but you’ll be giving an animal a second chance and helping support the RSPCA.
Go to Adopt
adopt a pet logo
Visit the Adopt A Pet website
Make a difference to a pet’s life today.
Search Adoptapet

What to know about pig welfare, and why it matters

Generic Avatar
  • RSPCA Australia
  • Monday, 4 March 2024

Pigs are pretty remarkable animals. Curious, intelligent, and sociable, they enjoy engaging in the world around them through foraging, exploring and play.  

But sadly, the majority of farmed pigs are limited in their ability to engage in the world and express their natural behaviours because 90% of the 2.4 million pigs currently farmed in Australia are housed in intensive indoor farming systems.  

Here, we delve into what pigs need for a good quality of life and why it matters ... 


Environment matters 

Pigs love to forage and explore their environment, and having adequate space to express these natural behaviours is important. In intensive farming systems, pigs are often kept with minimal space in barren environments, limiting their movement, and causing them both physical and psychological stress.    

The majority of pig producers in Australia have voluntarily phased out the use of sow stalls, allowing consumers to purchase sow-stall-free pork, and presenting a positive step on the journey to securing better welfare for farmed pigs.   

In intensive indoor housing systems, however, growing pigs are raised in concrete pens with no opportunity to root, forage, or explore. Boars (male breeding pigs) are routinely confined in boar stalls where they are unable to even turn around. Sows (mother pigs) are confined in farrowing crates for up to six weeks each pregnancy (from just prior to giving birth and until her piglets are weaned). While inside a farrowing crate, a sow is unable to turn around, freely interact with her piglets or perform natural behaviours such as nest building. This is no environment for a pig.   

For good welfare, growing pigs and pregnant sows should be housed in appropriate groups, with quality bedding and objects to manipulate to keep their sharp minds active. Boars should be housed in such a way that they can move freely and have the choice to interact socially and safely with sows. For sows about to give birth, they should have space to carry out nesting behaviours, comfortably rest, and bond with their piglets.   


Psychological wellbeing is also important  

Pigs are very social, forming strong bonds with one another and becoming stressed when alone. Pigs will normally live in small groups where they communicate through lots of different sounds. Through high-pitched squeals, pigs will communicate fear, distress, and pain to other pigs, while low grunting signals contentment. For this reason, housing pigs in groups is an important factor in providing a positive environment for them. Being able to socially interact is vital enrichment for pigs, and, just like us, each pig has unique personality traits, with some more vocal and rambunctious and others more laid-back in nature.   

Social interaction, however, is just one of the enrichment provisions these intelligent creatures need. Pigs are incredibly curious and need a variety of stimulation to keep active, otherwise they can become bored and/or aggressive towards other pigs. For example, pigs enjoy foraging, and so it’s important that they’re provided with the right materials to engage in this natural behaviour.  

Lastly, pigs also enjoy playing with one another! Play is important for piglet development and includes energetic running or hopping, social play, and play fighting. Even once they’re adults, pigs still enjoy playing with each other, as well as with items such as straw or chewable toys.  


Pigs are clean animals  

Pigs like to keep themselves clean, and when given the option they will not soil the areas where they eat or sleep. They do, however, enjoy muddy wallows which they use to help regulate their body temperature in warmer weather and protect themselves from sunburn, flies, and external parasites. Wallows are a valuable provision for pigs reared outdoors and provide another form of social enrichment as they will often wallow in groups. There’s a reason why we have the saying ‘as happy as a pig in mud’!  


We can do better for pigs 

The majority of pigs farmed in Australia are housed in environments that do not meet their complex physical or mental needs. Significant improvements are urgently needed to the way that pigs are farmed to ensure they have a good quality life that is worth living.   

The Victorian Government recently undertook an inquiry into the welfare of farmed pigs in Victoria, with the results currently in review. But any significant change to the welfare of pigs nationally will likely not be undertaken until the current Model Code of Practice for the welfare of pigs (last updated in 2008) is up for review.  

In the meantime, concerned individuals can do their part by advocating for better laws to protect pig welfare, and, if they choose to purchase pork products, making higher-welfare choices. 

Interested in learning more? 

How are pigs farmed in Australia? – RSPCA Knowledgebase 

Pork Labelling | RSPCA Approved 

subscribe box

Stay informed on big issues and how you can help improve animal welfare across Australia.

Subscribe today and we’ll keep you updated on all the latest campaigns, events and news.