The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) recently purchased stock in Hormel Foods—purveyors of chili, microwave ready bacon, pepperoni, pork sausage, and SPAM—in order to improve the welfare of animals in the company’s operations.
As a stockholder, HSUS hopes to move Minnesota-based Hormel Foods, which has been a leader in the manufacturing and marketing of pork since its founding in 1891, away from confining gestation crates.
Gestation crates are small metal cages used to confine breeding animals. The metal enclosures are so tightly cramped, the pregnant animals are not able to turn around, move, or rest comfortably and often develop open sores from the constant rubbing against the bars. Pigs, for instance, spend an average of three to four years in the crates giving birth to approximately five to eight litters. Once the animals are no longer needed for breeding purposes they are slaughtered.
“Legislation, science, economics and public opinion all support replacing gestation crates with systems that at least allow animals to move,” stated Matthew Prescott, outreach director of The HSUS factory farming campaign. “By switching to gestation crate-free pork, Hormel would greatly reduce animal suffering and improve its bottom line, making the conversion a good step for animals and shareholders alike.”
Dr. Temple Grandin, who serves as Hormel’s animal welfare advisor, states that “gestation crates for pigs are a real problem...Basically, you're asking a sow to live in an airline seat...I think it's something that needs to be phased out.”
Currently seven U.S. states and the European Union have outlawed the use of gestational crates. Additionally major companies like Burger King, Wendy’s, Sonic, Carl’s Jr. and Hardee’s, Quiznos, and Safeway have taken steps to phase out purchases of pork products produced from animals confined in the barbaric enclosures. Other companies including Whole Foods, Wolfgang Puck, and Chipotle do not use any pork which is produced using gestation crates.
HSUS provides the following facts:
- About 70 percent of breeding sows in the United States are confined in gestation crates. Extensive scientific research confirms this causes immense suffering. Studies have shown that not confining animals in cages or crates may also improve food safety.
- An American Farm Bureau-funded poll found that the vast majority of consumers think gestation crates are inhumane.
- Factory farming continues to be a major social issue: Oprah Winfrey dedicated an entire show to the issue, The New York Times has written on the topic, and The American Conservative ran a cover article about the abuse inherent in confining animals so tightly they can barely move called “Torture on the Farm.”
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Photo credit: Farm Sanctuary