Save Animals From Experiments (SAFE) has called the new “PigCare” accreditation “nonsense” because the standards for the audit are lax enough that a pig farm can receive PigCare accreditation even if they still use gestation crates.
Gestation crates, or sow stalls as they are also known, are cage-like enclosures that immobilize mother pigs during their pregnancy. Ostensibly the purpose of these stalls is to prevent fighting among sows who are kept together. But these benefits are countered by the increased stress and cruelty of the crates. By the end of their lives, sows are often too big for the crates and have to lie in awkward positions to fit.
Director Hans Kriek has criticized the PigCare auditing process because a farm can receive accreditation, along with a certification on their packaging that says the pigs were “well-cared for” – a very vague assurance at best – even though that farm may use gestation crates, commonly thought to be among the most cruel practices of factory farming.
Humane-washing is the process of labeling animal products as “humane”, “cruelty-free” as a marketing ploy. Cage-free eggs and free-range meats are examples of this phenomenon. The PigCare label is obviously an attempt by pig farmers to court consumers and stave off governmental regulation as long as possible.
The problem is that SAFE is criticizing PigCare for being a meaningless humane-washed label, but their criticism hinges on a single issue: gestation crates. However it isn’t as though animal cruelty ends when gestation crates are phased out. SAFE is in effect criticizing PigCare not for humane-washing, but for not humane-washing enough. SAFE has clearly stated they would like to see labels that clearly indicate whether gestation crates are used for the benefit of customers.
But “sow stall free pork” is no different than “cage free eggs”. All animal products, whether they come from animals confined in cages or not, whether they come from free-range animals or not, are inherently cruel.
No animal that is raised to eventually become food can possibly be “well-cared for”, and some of the most horrifying industry practices – castration without anesthesia and boiling animals alive for example – can be practiced while still receiving such labels.
SAFE and many other organizations are misguided when they attempt to impose these kind of welfare-based reforms on the industry. The only meaningful change we can make in the lives of animals raised for food is an unconditional, principled boycott of all animal products.
If you want to prevent cruelty to pigs, chickens, cows, dogs, horses, elephants, mice, cats, monkeys, apes, whales, or dolphins, go vegan. Take a stand against the viewpoint that animals are products for our use and work for the end of industries that exploit animals for profit.
Photo: Public Domain. USDA.