by Max Brantley
I was tipped yesterday that the Humane Society of the United States would announce results of another investigation into inhumane conditions at a factory farm meat producer and its sale by a major Arkansas food company.
I now have announcement of scheduled news conference later this morning. It will center on conditions at a Wyoming meat producer. Don't know if it's beef, pork or chicken, but Wyoming pork factory farms have been the subject of scrutiny in the past.
UPDATE: The Humane Society release is out and includes gruesome undercover video (a tactic at least one farm state is trying to outlaw). It concerns a Wyoming pork producer owned by a supplier to Tyson Foods. It includes complaints about sow gestation crates, a method of confinement that is drawing increasing criticism. A number of major companies are removing their use from their supply chains.
Contrary to the impression left by HSUS, there is no connection between this Wyoming farm and the pork that we process. Tyson Foods does not buy any of the hogs raised on this farm for our pork processing plants.
We do have a small, but separate hog buying business that buys aged sows; however, these animals are subsequently sold to other companies and are not used in Tyson’s pork processing business.
We’ve seen the video and we are appalled by the apparent mistreatment of the animals. We do not condone for any reason this kind of mistreatment of animals shown in the video.
Virtually all of the hogs Tyson buys for our processing plants come from thousands of independent farm families who use both individual and group housing. We require all hog farmers who supply us to be certified in the pork industry’s Pork Quality Assurance Plus program, which incorporates rigid animal well-being standards and is part of the industry’s ‘We Care’ responsible pork initiative. We validate enrollment and audit conformance to these standards. Farms that do not conform will be eliminated from our supply chain.
Tyson didn't address a specific question about its position on use of crates in its supply chain. UPDATE: It says that among many suppliers some use sow housing, but they are types found acceptable by veterinary organizations. It said it would continue to research the issue.
The Humane Society release:
The Humane Society of the United States released undercover video footage revealing cruel treatment of animals and inhumane conditions at a Wyoming pig breeding facility owned by a supplier for Tyson Foods. The HSUS has notified local authorities.
The video, shot in April 2012, was taken at Wyoming Premium Farms, a pig factory farm in Wheatland, Wyo., owned by Denver-based Itoham America, Inc., and shows workers kicking living piglets like soccer balls, swinging sick piglets in circles by their hind legs, striking mother pigs with their fists and repeatedly and forcefully kicking them as they resisted leaving their young. In one case, a mother pig with a broken back leg endured a very heavy worker sitting and bouncing on top of her hindquarters as the pig screamed in pain. The investigator also found pigs with untreated abscesses and severe rectal and uterine prolapses; mummified piglet corpses; and baby piglets who had fallen through floor slats to either hang to death or drown in manure pits. The HSUS met with the Platte County Sheriff’s office to present investigation evidence and urged the office to pursue filing criminal charges if warranted.
“I am sickened and outraged by what I’ve seen, and any right-thinking person will have the same reaction,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. “The shocking abuse at this facility shows why so many Americans are calling for reforms in the pork industry. It is also deeply disconcerting that Tyson and other companies are buying pork from this hellhole for pigs, and I hope those corporate relationships end tomorrow.”
“It is also time for Tyson to join so many other major food industry companies and make a commitment to ending the confinement of sows in gestation crates,” adds Pacelle. “These crates immobilize animals for their entire lives, and it’s no longer acceptable to the American public.”
Many more examples of cruelty and unsanitary conditions are documented on video and detailed in an HSUS investigation report. The graphic video also documents prolonged suffering of pigs used for breeding who are confined in gestation crates, two-foot-wide metal cages so small the animals can’t even turn around, rendering them virtually immobilized for almost their entire lives.
Gestation Crate Facts
Only two-feet-wide, gestation crates virtually immobilize pigs for almost their entire lives, leading to health problems including infections, sores and mental stress.
Extensive scientific research confirms that gestation crate confinement causes suffering.
Eight U.S. states and the European Union have passed laws to phase out gestation crates.
Top fast food outlets including McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King, have publicly committed to getting gestation crates out of their supply chains.
Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer, and Hormel announced they will be 100 percent gestation crate-free for company-owned operations within five years and Cargill is already 50 percent gestation crate-free.
Renowned animal scientist Temple Grandin, Ph.D., has stated, “I feel very strongly that we've got to treat animals right, and the gestation stalls have got to go.”
The HSUS is urging Tyson Foods to join its competitors in the pork industry and commit to phasing out the extreme confinement of breeding pigs in gestation crates.