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Humane Society Documents Pig Abuse at Major Pork Producer

3p Contributor | Wednesday February 1st, 2012 | 4 Comments

Ed. note: This post does not necessarily represent the views of 3p, though we applaud the Humane Society’s efforts. We respect the progress WalMart has made on environmental issues and encourage them to work to bring animal welfare into the supplier code of conduct. A version of this post originally appeared on the HSUS blog.

The Humane Society usually tries to work with organizations directly before going public. When asked about the backstory that led them to take the path of submitting this guest post, Kristie Middleton of HSUS said:

The Humane Society of the United States always prefers to work with companies privately on these types of issues. In the past, HSUS had some positive exchanges with Wal-Mart about eggs, and even praised it for ensuring that its private brand eggs are 100% cage-free. However, HSUS’ attempts to continue this dialogue around pig welfare have been met with silence, as have attempts to contact their supplier Seaboard. This gave us no choice but to go public with this investigation.

By: Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of The Humane Society

The HSUS went undercover again to record what’s happening at factory farms, and yesterday we released our latest findings. We announced them at a press conference in Oklahoma City, not far from the pig production facilities we examined.

The facilities we examined are owned by two of the nation’s largest pork producers: Seaboard Foods and Prestage Farms. Seaboard is the nation’s third-largest pork company (and a supplier to Walmart), and Prestage is the nation’s fifth-largest. The results were extremely troubling.

For four months while pregnant, pigs are confined in gestation crates―two-foot by seven-foot metal cages. They’re moved to another crate to give birth, after which they’re impregnated again and put back into a gestation crate to repeat the cycle. This happens again and again, until the animals either die in their crates or can no longer breed at a profitable rate and are sent to slaughter. Each animal may spend up to three years locked in a crate, virtually immobilized for nearly her entire life.
Living inside a cage barely larger than your body isn’t humane and it is not right. Yet this is precisely how the majority of pigs used for breeding by the U.S. pork industry are kept.

Seaboard’s own animal welfare advisor―the renowned Dr. Temple Grandin―is unequivocal on this issue: “We’ve got to treat animals right, and the gestation stalls have got to go.”

In addition to documenting the chronic mental anguish suffered by pigs confined in this extreme way, our investigation also found workers hitting pigs in their genitals and pulling their hair to move them from one crate to another; injured piglets with their hind legs duct-taped to their bodies; and more.

Because our findings are in stark contrast to claims Seaboard makes about animal welfare (such as that it uses “the most humane practices”), we’ve filed legal complaints with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and Federal Trade Commission urging the agencies to put an end to Seaboard’s deceptive statements.

No one in the pig industry should be surprised that there’s a growing drumbeat of opposition to extreme confinement of sows in gestation crates. After all, eight U.S. states have passed laws to phase in bans on gestation crates. And just last month, Smithfield Foods (the nation’s largest pork producer) announced that it will stop using gestation crates in its company-owned breeding facilities by 2017. Cargill is 50 percent gestation crate-free.

Unfortunately, as our investigation reveals, Seaboard and Prestage have made little progress on the issue, and they keep sows in these crates every day of the year. Please encourage both companies to develop a plan for getting gestation crates out of their operations by contacting them today and urge the companies that buy from these suppliers to stop doing so until the companies make changes.

Video footage of the investigation can be found here.

Wayne Pacelle is president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, the nation’s largest animal protection organization with more than 11 million supporters.


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  • Anonymous

    Thank you so much for sharing our recent investigation.  We would like to encourage everyone to take action at https://secure.humanesociety.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=5320&autologin=true&s_src=website&s_subsrc=gestation_rls_013112 to let Seaboard and Prestage know that you oppose the use of gestation crates.

    • Guest

      In your undercover video I noticed that the sow with all the lesions was in the group housing among other sows. The sows in individual housing looked healthy, alert, curious, and lesion free. The one sow you showed us with a shoulder lesion (maybe from lying down) seemed to be in a farrowing crate and the shoulder lesion seemed to be healed. You want to tell me to contact people to get rid of gestation crates to move the sows into group stalls? Do you really have the animal’s well being at heart? I doubt it. I used to think HSUS was a relatively credible source. After this video, I have my doubts because I did not see one instance where a human was abusing an animal. The only person in the room with the sow with the bloody nose (which looked like a fresh wound) was your undercover person. Raise any questions? It sure did with me.

  • Kansas456

    I think this video allows you to see and think about the difference between gestation crates and group housing. At 42 seconds of the undercover video you see the pigs content and comfortable. If you look at the video clips at 1:33 and 2:07 these are in a small group setting. At these two times you see a sow that has bite marks and scratches and a sow overheated (caused by fighting to acquire a pecking order). Everyone has a different opinion on how to house the sows in the gestation period. There is no scientific evidence that proves one way better than the other. If you have ever seen a group of sows get put together, you would probably think the crates are the best way to go. They all fight until a pecking order has been established, which can go on for a couple days or longer. Talk about seeing bruised and bleeding animals, which could also cause them to abort. On the other hand if you get past the time they get a pecking order established you would probably think that the group housing would be better.
    In this video the undercover worker also brings up the following:
    “Found workers cutting piglets testicles and tails off with no painkiller, injured piglets with their legs duct taped to their bodies”
    In the video it doesn’t show that they spray iodine on the pigs after this has been done. In some operations (I’m not sure what these two companies’ policies are) there is a pain reliever in the iodine spray applied after castration and tail docking. They also didn’t show you what can happen if the tails are not docked. In finishers tail bitings occur and have to be treated. By cutting/docking the tail it decreases the chances of tail biting. Tail biting can cause a serious infection which can spread to the spine and leave the pig paralyzed.
    Normally, pigs’ legs are duct taped to help with splay-leg. If done correctly it keeps the rear legs in correct position, while still allowing free movement of the rear legs. Every hog operation has procedures on how to do this based on rules and regulations set by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians.
    This video also makes you wonder how the HSUS expects people to follow rules and regulations when their undercover worker did not. Why would you stand around and video tape a dead sow instead of following protocol and removing her from the other pigs? Also, if a pig has prolapsed she should be culled or treated. The worker did neither based on this video. He or she also put the herd health at risk by not following bio-security rules. No devices are allowed from outside the farm without being disinfected and approved by the manager. People have to shower in and out of the facilities and aren’t allowed to bring items onto the clean side (besides their lunch) to decrease the chance of spreading a contagious disease or bacteria that could be harmful to the farm.
    Hopefully, this video has made you ask questions to find out why these procedures are set. It is hard to make a judgment when you haven’t been provided with all the information. In today’s society it is hard to find truthful facts so make sure you are getting it from a good source. The American Veterinary Medical Association would be a good place to start.

  • lynnbaber

    No more pork for me unless the hogs are husbanded in a manner suitable to the minimal standards every animal should expect. Vertical marketing and maxing out economies of scale have replaced humanity.