Top Pork Producer Caught Not Living Up To Its Pledge of Humane Treatment

While itís welcome news when livestock companies voluntarily commit to more ethical and humane practices, these pledges are only valuable if the companies follow through. A decade ago, Smithfield Foods, the top pork company on the planet, agreed to discontinue the use of gestation crates, but an animal welfare group has gathered evidence showing it hasnít actually happened.

If youíre unfamiliar with gestation crates, this Care2 article is an information (yet depressing) catch-up. The gist is that mama pigs are kept in tiny crates, barely larger than the animals themselves so that they cannot turn around. For the entire four months of their pregnancies, they donít even leave their cells to eat or relieve themselves. Since pigs understandably donít like being in the same position all the time, they often injure themselves trying to move around in their cages.

Members of Direct Action Everywhere, a group dedicated to animal liberation, went undercover and obtained jobs at various Smithfield farms. There, they filmed examples of pigs not just being confined in gestation crates, but also uncomfortably giving birth in them, putting their piglets at risk of being crushed due to the lack of space.

One of the more disturbing photos (viewable at Vox) shows a pig with raw, bleeding nipples.

Itís bad enough that Smithfield promised something it has not adequately tried to live up to, but whatís worse is that in January of this year, Smithfield had declared that itís pledge was a success. This evidence contradicts that claim and rightfully squanders whatever good will the company tried to earn by making the promise in the first place.

Smithfield disputes the findings, arguing that it believes the pigs werenít left in the crates indefinitely. Instead, the company claims, these crates were used specifically during insemination and branding. That said, Smithfield also said it would be launching investigations to verify whether certain farms werenít following the proper guidelines.

Wayne Hsiung, a leader at Direct Action Everywhere, called that corporate response hogwash. ďWe have been in dozens of Smithfield gestation facilities over the past year, and weíve seen thousands of mother pigs in crates Ė and hardly any outside of them,Ē he said. ďSmithfieldís press release from 10 years ago indicated that it would be phasing out crates, not used for a different purpose.”

While the involved parties may bicker about the use of the crates, itís a shame that theyíre being used at all. Pigs are super smart and social, so confining them in this manner Ė for whatever reason – seems extra cruel.

As Vox reports, Americans tend to agree with that sentiment. Ten states have laws against gestation crates (obtained either by legislature vote or ballot initiative) and it usually wins by a vast margin. The downside is that pig farming is not big in many of these states.

Some states have resisted passing laws because they believe livestock companiesí voluntary promises are already doing the job. However, if companies like Smithfield arenít sticking to these pledges, that is all the more reason that legislation needs to be passed to ensure humane practices are followed.

Take Action

Gestation crates arenít the only crap Smithfield Foods peddles Ė thereís also the issue of literal crap being spread into communities. The neighbors of Smithfield facilities have complained about being overrun by pig feces, and this popular Care2 petition calls for action.† Itís time Smithfield accepts some accountability for something!


Photo credit: Shutterstock


Danuta Watola
Danuta W19 hours ago

Thank you for sharing

Karen N
Karen N3 days ago

Cruel, vile industry! . . . Animal farming is not only immoral it is an ecological disaster having detrimental effects upon livestock, other animals, humans and the environment! . . . We can do without consuming/wearing animal products . . . we cannot do without a healthy environment! . . . No good is coming from such a cruel, vile, detrimental and immoral industry only of course to those that profit from it. The vile meat/dairy/poultry/fish/fur etc. and hunting and vivisection industries exist because they are big business and do nothing other than encourage barbarism and create so-called jobs and opportunities for psychopaths and sadists who can act out their sick mentality torturing, mutilating and murdering animals and get paid for it . . . and to think we could be walking by them in the street . . . Very disturbing indeed! . . . Anyone who truly cares about the welfare of animals, the environment . . . and their own health would do all they can to stop contributing to and supporting such cruel vile and detrimental industries by avoiding consuming and wearing animal products and using products that have been tested on animals or contain ingredients that have been tested on animals . . . Yet more farm animal cruelty in the UK is exposed in the following article . . .

Cindy S
Past Member 4 days ago

grind farmers up and sell them at stores........

Christine S

Please don't eat pork! There really is no way to raise these intelligent animals for food in a humane manner. If you don't believe dogs should be slaughtered for food, you shouldn't agree with killing pigs, either.

Veronica B
Veronica B5 days ago

Petition Signed.

Go Vegan

Jessica C
Jessica C7 days ago

Just stop eating meat!

Chrissie R
Chrissie R7 days ago

Thank you for posting. I don't eat pork anyway..

Bill Arthur
Bill Arthur7 days ago

What the article does not say is that those 'smart, social' animals also bully, attack and injure one another when they are in groups. They will even kill less aggressive animals if allowed and certainly the biggest bullies will eat more than their share and leave the less aggressive too little feed to be healthy. They are animals and should not be thought of in terms and situations like humans.

Catherine G
Catherine G7 days ago

Poor sweet pigs. They are adorable and deserve so much better

Deborah W
Deborah W8 days ago

Producer caught not living up to pledge. SO NOW WHAT? Smithfield made its fortune in the sell-out, they didn't care about consequences. Between the liars of the world and lack of harsh consequences to those caught, do we REALLY care? If so, quit adding to their coffers through your purchases. Ownership is shared here.