6 min read

These Pigs In Cambodia Are Ridiculously Muscular

“It’s gone way too far.”

With demands for pork soaring worldwide, some farmers are willing to go to extremes for a profit, but when it comes to the animals involved, bigger isn’t necessarily better.

Disturbing photos of pigs with “double muscles” surfaced on Facebook and have since gone viral in the animal welfare community, causing outrage and raising questions as to how the health of these pigs could be impacted by their extra-large size.

The photos of the oversized swine were posted to the Facebook page Duroc Cambodia, named for a popular breed of domestic pig. The page reportedly belongs to a farm located in the Banteay Meanchey province of Cambodia, and updates of the tight-muscled pigs date all the way back to December. 

One thing that is clear is that these pigs, covered with knots of muscles, do not appear comfortable. In the videos posted to the Facebook page, the oversized pigs seem to have extreme difficulty walking, Susie Coston, national shelter director of Farm Sanctuary, told The Dodo.

“These are very young pigs; these pigs are small and short, which means they’re probably less than 6 months old, and they’re already so morbidly obese,” Coston said.

“This is not normal,” Coston noted. “This is just a further example of the type of manipulation that goes on when animals are used for profit.”

So far the upsetting images have produced far more questions than answers as to how these big pigs came to be so huge, and at what cost to the animal. “We’ve seen the aftermath of playing with genetics at the sanctuary level because [Farm Sanctuary gets] a lot of industrial animals, and pigs now are really prone to arthritis, even before they’re full-grown,” Coston said. “They have problems with their growth plates because they go from 2 and a half pounds to 260 pounds in six months — so this is shocking.”

This isn’t the first time double-muscled pigs have caused a stir on the internet. Genetically engineered pigs first came to light in 2015, when scientists at Seoul National University found that by tweaking the gene that regulates muscle production, they could produce porcine creatures of massive proportions. In preliminary experiments, less than half the piglets with edited genes survived past 8 months old, and only one of the 32 specimens was actually considered “healthy.”

“Whenever you do any genetic change or manipulation to an animal, something else has gone wrong,” Coston explained. “Their hearts can’t handle it, their internal organs can’t handle it or their legs can’t handle it.”

At the time, scientists said they were not intending these pigs for consumption, but instead hoping to sell the sperm to farmers for breeding with "normal" pigs.

While some believe the Cambodian pigs to be proof of some sort of genetic modification, which would make their sale and consumption currently illegal, the same results can be achieved through means such as selective breeding, steroids and growth hormone treatment.

Farm owner Ky Laysun told the Phnom Penh Post that the pigs were bred “by accident,” and perfected over just two or three generations. He claims that their health problems and breathing difficulty come from “hot weather.”

Whether these pigs are the product of selective breeding, genetic alterations or steroids, the negative impact their bulbous size has on their health is all too clear.

“My concern is it’s another crazy thing that we’re doing to an animal,” Coston said. “They can’t be healthy, there’s nothing about them that shows a healthy animal. It’s gone way too far.”

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