The Humane Society of the United States 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.
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. (Take action to help pigs.)
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.
The HSUS put a spotlight on this abuse by releasing the details of undercover investigations we recently conducted at Oklahoma pig breeding facilities 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.
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.
This entry originally appeared on Pacelle's blog, A Humane Nation.