Animal activists have released virtual reality footage giving a confronting close-up of "suffering" sows held in farrowing crates.

Safe and Farmwatch have used hidden cameras, including 360-degree footage, to give a unique view from inside a New Zealand farm shed alongside the pigs.

The footage has been obtained by Farmwatch at an undisclosed Waikato piggery.

It shows sows confined in farrowing crates unable to turn around for weeks on end and struggling to lie down.

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Some are shown biting at the bars and one makes a bid to escape.

The footage also shows a sow being repeatedly jabbed in the head with a pipe and piglets being thrown into containers while their mothers cry out.

Safe is calling for an immediate ban on farrowing crates and have launched a petition calling on the Government to ensure the sows stop being confined in cages.

"Suffering of animals on New Zealand pig farms is sadly common place. Despite continual public outcries over the years, sows are still confined in metal cages little wider than themselves, living a life of misery," said Safe campaigns director Mandy Carter.

"Virtual reality will allow the public to experience what NZ Pork would rather they did not.

"Now, with the 360-degree footage, people can see for themselves and understand the desperation and boredom these animals experience every day."

Safe says the unique immersive experience allows the public to gain a powerful insight into what life is like for sows imprisoned in farrowing crates.

The animal welfare lobby say farrowing crates, used by some in the pig industry, breach the Animal Welfare Act because they prevent pigs from expressing their normal behaviour, which is a requirement of the act.

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The Government animal welfare committee has agreed that farrowing crates do not meet the requirements of the Animal Welfare Act and have introduced new regulations. Safe says the changes require the cage to be barely bigger than the sow inside it and want farrowing crates banned altogether.

New Zealand Pork was not able to be reached for comment.