By ANDREW C. REVKIN (x-post from Dot Earth Blog)
In a Mother Jones post, Tom Philpott has aptly summarized the issues raised by a new Humane Society of the United States investigation and video report on the conditions in which pigs are propagated by two big Oklahoma pork suppliers:
The remarkable thing…is how banal it is. No illegal acts like “downer” animals being forced down the kill line with fork lifts, or getting their brains bashed in with a pickax. What we have here is the everyday reality of pigs’ lives on a factory farm, without regulations flouted or spectacular violence committed. It is abuse routinized and regimented, honed into a profitable business model. [Read the rest.]
The Humane Society findings focus on the practice of keeping pregnant sows for months in cages barely bigger than the animal. The group’s Web site notes that laws banning gestation crates have been passed in eight states – Ohio,Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Michigan, and Oregon – with bills pending in Delaware, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Connecticut,Massachusetts, Vermont, New Jersey and New York.
6:33 p.m. | Updated below | The Oklahoma Pork Council told the state’s KTOK radio station:
The Oklahoma Pork Council and Oklahoma’s pork producers take seriously our ethical responsibility for the proper care of pigs. Responsible pork producers condemn the mistreatment of any animal. We urge everyone to view the video carefully, however, because some of the practices shown can be taken out of context by those not familiar with livestock production. An example is the use of gestation stalls as one of many sow-housing solutions that, overseen properly by animal care workers, can be beneficial to the animal’s health and safety. Pork producers constantly seek new and better ways to care for their animals. We welcome the opportunity to discuss animal-care practices, but we object to organizations that look for isolated incidents in an attempt to undermine the work of caring livestock farmers.
I sought a reaction from Wal-Mart, which is partly supplied with pork bySeaboard Foods, one of the pork producers in the video, to see what its plans are. Dianna Gee, a spokeswoman, said that the company “takes allegations of animal mistreatment by our suppliers very seriously” and is investigating the reports. She added that “our expectation is that all suppliers “meet or exceed regulations and industry guidelines” (established by the American Meat Institute).
Even with the shift away from crates and other improved practices, as the fast-expanding global middle class moves up the protein chain, demand for meat relentlessly rises.
This is one reason I remain a fan of research aimed at producing “meat without slaughter.” (I also stick with my Dot Earth proposal that foie gras should be the first profitable example of cultivated meat given the super-proliferative nature of liver tissue and the ethical questions related to conventional production of this delicacy.)
Filed under: animal cruelty, animal law, diet, factory farms Tagged: | animal abuse, animal ethics, animal suffering, animal welfare, downer animals, factory farming, farmed animals, gestation crates, industrial agriculture, pig-farming