The past week has been a big one for pigs …
If you were to ask the average person at a grocery store what a gestation crate is, they would probably have no idea, but if that person has pig flesh in their shopping cart—be it labeled “ham,” “pork,” or otherwise—they should. Most of the 100 million pigs killed in the U.S. for their flesh each year spend their lives in cramped metal pens inside filthy sheds—they don’t live fairytale lives like Babe or Wilbur. Mother pigs are intensively confined and forcibly impregnated, then confined to a gestation crate—a metal crate so small that she can’t even turn around or lie down comfortably—for their entire adult lives. Forced to live lying in their own feces and urine, mother pigs are never allowed to step outdoors until the day they are forced onto trucks headed for slaughter. Gestation crates are so cruel in fact that voters in the state of Florida and Arizona have already banned their use entirely.
Since we know that not everyone will go vegetarian overnight, PETA has been working for years to get the companies who kill pigs and other animals for food to at least improve the conditions in which they are kept. Bearing that in mind, you can imagine how we felt late last week when Smithfield Foods, the largest pig flesh-producer in the United States and supplier of chains like McDonald’s, issued a statement that it would be phasing out gestation crates in the next ten years. (While we wish that Smithfield would stop the use of gestation crates immediately, this is such a huge step forward that we can’t exactly complain.) And if that wasn’t a big enough deal, then there’s this: Just days after Smithfield announced it’s decision to stop cramming mother pigs into tiny metal-and-cement cages, Maple Leaf Foods, Canadaâ€™s largest pig flesh-producer, announced that it will make the same move. To sum up, this means that the two largest killers of pigs in North America are acknowledging that consumers are not OK with cruelty to animals, and their business will suffer if they don’t take animal welfare into consideration.
Here’s what MSNBC had to say about Smithfield’s decision, and how groups like PETA and HSUS played a part in influencing this monumental change:
Pork processor Smithfield Foods Inc. said Thursday it will phase out gestation stalls or crates at all 187 sow farms it owns in eight states and replace them with “more animal-friendly” group housing pens over the next decade.
Smithfield’s sows, which the company says grow to an average of 400 to 450 pounds during gestation, are kept in 2-by-7-foot metal crates in order to monitor their progress during their four-month pregnancies.
Animal-rights groups argue that confining pigs in crates is inhumane because the sows don’t have room to turn around, they develop leg problems and they suffer from boredom and frustration. Group pens give sows some room to move and the ability to socialize.
Smithfield is making the change because customers “have told us they feel group housing is a more animal-friendly form of sow housing,” C. Larry Pope, chief executive of the Smithfield-based company, said in a statement.
(Read more …)
Of course, this is not to say that it is now alright to go out and eat pigs or any other animal for that matter. On the contrary—we will always stand by the belief that the most compassionate decision anyone can make is to adopt a vegan diet, and refuse to eat any animals. But anyone with a heart can agree—this move by Smithfield and Maple Leaf will make difference for millions of pigs, no matter how small it may seem to us. Here’s hoping that this really is the beginning of the end for factory farming, and that things like gestation crates will be left to the pages of our children’s history books.