Experts are pointing to intensive farming as the cause for an increase in female pig deaths in the US, The Guardian reports.
A 4.4 percent increase in sow deaths between 2013 and 2016 has been linked to the medical occurrence known as prolapse.
It’s estimated that up to 50 percent of non-slaughter related sow deaths are the result of the collapse of the animal’s uterus, rectum, or vagina.
While industry publication National Hog Farmernotes the increase in deaths and prolapses, it also says the spike is ultimately ‘a mystery’.
However, experts and animal welfare organizations suggest that the conditions of intensive farming are to blame.
According to The Guardian, a number of possible causes of prolapse have been identified, including dietary issues, overcrowding, selective breeding, and other modern breeding practices.
A statement on sow breeding and prolapse from PETA points to living conditions and overbreeding as the likely cause.
It reads: “Female pigs used as breeders by the meat industry usually spend most of their lives confined to metal-barred gestation crates that are so cramped, they can barely move.
“They’re repeatedly impregnated and forced to bear an average of 23 piglets per year.”
Compassion in World Farming, however, maintains that the prolapse increase is connected to selective breeding.
Speaking with The Guardian, Outgoing Executive Director Leah Garces said: “Over the last few decades, sows to have been bred to have less back-fat – because people don’t want to eat as much fat – but we also want them to produce more and more babies.
“And that’s not biologically possible; their bones are weak and they don’t have enough fat to support the reproductive process.
“We’ve bred them to their limit and the animals are telling us that.”