Regulars and Shorts

Animalia: January 2013

By catalyst

Pigs are people too!
—by Carol Koleman

Factory farms use a common method for containing pregnant pigs: keeping them in enclosures called “gestational crates” (also known as sow stalls) which are so small that the pig cannot turn around, take a step, or even lie down on her side to sleep (as pigs do). This is pretty much the way it is for their entire lives, as factory farms keep their sows pregnant all the time.

The crate system costs 11% more per weaned pig than the community system, according to Iowa State University. Pork suppliers say these crates prevent injury from fighting.

However, others say this method causes more stress, pain and sickness than using larger, community enclosures which would allow movement and the opportunity for these highly social animals to have a more decent life.

Other practices that reduce aggression include eliminating overcrowding, keeping littermates together, and providing bedding material as well as satisfying meals.

The plight of the pig has yet to be taken up by the masses—perhaps because the most visible (and vocal) of us eat more chicken and beef than pork. Free-range pork has yet to have become a cause. Why is this?

Animal behaviorists list pigs as tops in smarts among domestic animals, above cats and dogs. Pigs are similar genetically to us—which is why we use pig heart valves in human heart surgery. Pigs feel pain, fear and stress; as highly intelligent animals, they experience boredom and insanity caused by their living conditions, and they suffer as we do.

There is positive change afoot, however. In the last three years, nine states (Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, Ohio, Oregon and Rhode Island) and the entire European Union have enacted policies to phase out gestational crates.

We still have a long way to go. Here’s how you can make a difference:

Support suppliers who have taken a stand in favor of community enclosures vs. gestational crates.
• Maxwell Foods, one of the largest pork suppliers in the U.S., has gone to 100% “gc” free.
• Cargill Foods is phasing out gestational crates and is at 50%.
• Smithfield Foods, the largest pork supplier in the world, committed in 2007 to phase out gestational crates by 2017. They later recanted, but pressure from the Humane Society of the U.S. caused them to reinstate their 2007 commitment.
• Hormell Foods has also committed a phaseout in 2017.
• Chipotle, Whole Foods, Wolfgang Puck, Target and others only use gestation crate-free pork.
• McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Subway, Kraft Foods (owner of Oscar Mayer), Kroger, Safeway, Costco, Denny’s, Jack in the Box, Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s, Sodexo, Sysco, Aramark, Compass Group, Heinz, Campbell Soup, Baja Fresh, Wienerschnitzel, and Harris Teeter, Winn—Dixie, Quiznos and Red Robin Gourmet Burgers have all announced that they will eliminate gestation crates from their supply chains.

Avoid Tyson and Walmart
• Tyson Foods and Walmart refuse to acknowledge a problem and have made no demands on their suppliers re. gestational crates. Avoid them.

For more information:

This article was originally published on December 27, 2012.