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


Barbara Idso
Barbara Idso4 days ago

Animals are not cogs. Factory farms are concentration camps. So sad....

Nicolas Nasrallah

Time for humanity to stop thinking with their fat bellies and start proving the intelligence we claim to have. Anyone that condones the suffering of other being should not call themselves human being, they are more like barbaric savages

Justin M
Justin M10 days ago


Jetana A
Jetana A11 days ago

I signed the petition 7/11. It is now closed. Hope it helps that company's poor sows!

Julia R
Julia R12 days ago

Thank you for sharing this important article underscoring the cruelty in the pork industry and why people need to stop eating pork products. Cruelty to pigs by keeping them confined in tiny cages for their entire lives and are treated like producing machines rather than the intelligent, highly sensitive and very loyal animals that pigs are! Stop supporting this terrrible animal cruelty and don't eat bacon or any pork products! You don't need them. The vegan bacon actually tastes better and doesn't have all the cholesterol that pork bacon has. Nobody needs to be eating these animals and supporting cruelty on such a massive scale!

Michael F
Michael F13 days ago

Thank You for Sharing This !!!

Renata B
Renata B13 days ago

Signed 11 July 2017!

Renata B
Renata B13 days ago

There is nothing humane in murder, which means taking someone else's life against their will. And there will never be. People can invent fancy names to avoid looking at the bare truth, but the truth doesn't change.

hELEN h14 days ago


Ruth S
Ruth S14 days ago