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

While it’s 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 hasn’t actually happened.

If you’re 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 don’t even leave their cells to eat or relieve themselves. Since pigs understandably don’t 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.

It’s bad enough that Smithfield promised something it has not adequately tried to live up to, but what’s worse is that in January of this year, Smithfield had declared that it’s 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 weren’t 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 weren’t following the proper guidelines.

Wayne Hsiung, a leader at Direct Action Everywhere, called that corporate response hogwash. “We have been in dozens of Smithfield gestation facilities over the past year, and we’ve seen thousands of mother pigs in crates – and hardly any outside of them,” he said. “Smithfield’s 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, it’s a shame that they’re being used at all. Pigs are super smart and social, so confining them in this manner – 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 companies’ voluntary promises are already doing the job. However, if companies like Smithfield aren’t 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 aren’t the only crap Smithfield Foods peddles – there’s 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.  It’s time Smithfield accepts some accountability for something!

 

Photo credit: Shutterstock

106 comments

Clare O
Clare O14 days ago

Animals should not live and die in tiny cages. Give them a decent life.

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Clare O
Clare O14 days ago

Horrible treatment of animals

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Clare O
Clare O14 days ago

Very hard to comment on a phone as the ads fill the screen now and you can not scroll down without being taken to other pages and ad pages which my antivirus firewall blacklists.

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Lisa B
Lisa B17 days ago

How hard is it for these people to spend a little money to build a 'free range' facility?

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Michael Friedmann
Michael F24 days ago

Thank You for Sharing This !!!

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Diane E
Diane E27 days ago

So cruel. Please let farm animals be kept responsibly with freedom and a natural life. They are intelligent, sentient beings..

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Peggy B
Peggy B29 days ago

TY

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Michael Friedmann
Michael Fabout a month ago

Thank You for Sharing This !!!

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Glennis W
Glennis Wabout a month ago

Bloody cruel Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis Wabout a month ago

A lot of Aussie pig farms are closing down thank goodness because of the Free Trade Thank you for caring and sharing

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