The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), submitted a shareholder resolution asking Hormel foods to reveal to their shareholders how many gestation crates are used for their breeding pigs in the production of their pork products. In addition, they have asked what, if any, steps are being taken to implement a more humane system.
Gestation crates confine a pig for the duration of her pregnancy (4 months), in a small crate-like stall, where she is unable to turn around or move freely. She is moved from the gestation crate into a birthing crate shortly before she gives birth, and after, she is moved back into the gestation crate for another pregnancy. This miserable, cruel cycle continues for their entire lives until they are slaughtered. Approximately 70% of breeding sows in the US live this way.
Not surprisingly, research has proven that this method of farming causes immense suffering. A study by Iowa State University has proven, ironically, that it is cheaper to raise sows in groups in place of gestation crates.
"Consumers don’t support lifelong confinement of farm animals in tiny crates," stated Josh Balk, director of corporate policy for the HSUS' farm animal protection division. "Hormel appears to be behind the times on this issue, and shareholders deserve to understand what the company is—or isn’t – doing to correct its support for this unnecessary and extreme cruelty."
Eight U.S. states – including Arizona and Colorado, two states that have Hormel operations – and the European Union have passed laws to phase out gestation crates.
A poll conducted by American Farm Bureau (AFB) concurred with HSUS’s Josh Balk, showing that the vast majority of the American public believes that the use of gestation crates is inhumane. A further study by AFB showed that 89% of Americans believe that food companies should require their suppliers to treat their animals humanely.
Major companies like Wendy’s, Burger King, Chipotle, Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s, Sonic, Quiznos, Wolfgang Puck, Safeway, Whole Foods, Harris Teeter and Winn-Dixie have begun transitioning away from pork produced using gestation crates. Hormel competitors Cargill, Maple Leaf Foods and Smithfield have also begun moving away from gestation crates. Hormel Foods’ own animal welfare advisor, Dr. Temple Grandin, unequivocally states that, “gestation stalls have got to go.”
It's becoming clear as we see an increase of news reports and studies being conducted, the American public is becoming more aware of animal welfare issues in the supply of their food. Overwhelming evidence shows the public does not want their suppliers to contribute to, or endorse the abuse of animals.
In response we are seeing organizations that are in touch with their consumers wants and needs, pushing for changes and endorsing better animals practices. We can only hope that this push continues, for the sake of the animals whose lives are caught in the balance, and those who support them.