Americans are increasingly concerned about how farm animals are treated. Food companies know this and are going to great lengths to assure consumers of the care with which the animals raised to produce their chicken nuggets, burgers, and pork chops were raised.
Walmart tells shareholders in its 2010 proxy statement, for example, that it “remains committed to humane treatment of animals by its suppliers.” With such a statement, one would think the pigs raised for Walmart’s pork are able to live at least a decent life. Unfortunately, little could be further from the truth.
Today, The Humane Society of the United States released results of an undercover investigation conducted in late 2011 at a pig breeding facility owned by a Walmart pork supplier, Seaboard Foods, in Goodwell, Okla. The organization also submitted complaints to The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and Federal Trade Commission regarding false and misleading statements being made by Seaboard about animal welfare.
The HSUS’s undercover video documents breeding pigs suffering inside tiny, cramped cages called “gestation crates” and at the hands of abusive employees. The vast majority of breeding pigs raised in the U.S. are confined in gestation crates. The cages are about the size of the animals’ own bodies, rendering them virtually immobilized—and unable to even turn around essentially for their entire lives.
Dr. Temple Grandin—an animal welfare advisor to Seaboard Foods itself—states, “I feel very strongly that we’ve got to treat animals right, and the gestation stalls have got to go.”
In addition to the extreme, constant suffering the animals endure as a result of such confinement, the HSUS’s undercover video documented egregious cruelty to pigs at the hands of Seaboard workers. For example, employees cruelly hit pigs on their genitals to move them from one crate to another and pulled their hair for the same purpose.
Seaboard’s animal welfare claims on its web site, including that the company uses “…the most humane practices throughout the animal’s life,” are a far cry from what the HSUS investigator documented on film. Because these statements are false and misleading and aimed at shareholders, among others, The HSUS’ complaints with the SEC and FTC ask that the agencies put an end to Seaboard’s deceptive and false statements about animal welfare.
Keeping animals in such extreme confinement is not only reprehensibly cruel, but it’s simply out of step with mainstream American values about animal care. And that’s bad for business.