'Earthquake in pig industry' praised
Advertiser News Service
Advertiser News Service
WASHINGTON — Calling the company's announcement "perhaps the most monumental advance for animal welfare in history of modern American agribusiness," the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) this week praised Smithfield Corporation, the nation's largest pork producer, for announcing it has agreed to phase out the confinement of pigs in gestation crates over the next decade.
The decision comes after voters in Arizona and Florida — in ballot initiatives spearheaded by HSUS — approved measures to outlaw the crates. The Arizona measure, Proposition 204, was approved in November by 62 percent of voters, in spite of a vigorous campaign by industry to defeat it.
"This is an earthquake in the pig industry," stated Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the HSUS. "Gestation crates are one of the most inhumane confinement systems used in modern agribusiness, and this decision is a signal by the industry leader that these crates have no place in the future of American agriculture. The Humane Society of the United States calls on the other major pork producers to follow Smithfield's lead, and rid the industry of this extraordinarily inhumane confinement system."
Gestation crates are 2-by-7-foot metal cages that house breeding pigs. The sows have a gestation period of four months, and are in the crates for nearly their entire pregnancy. After giving birth, they are re-impregnated and placed back in the crates, enduring perhaps 8 or 10 successive pregnancies in the crates before the animals are reproductively "spent." The crates are so restrictive that the animals can't even turn around for months on end. Pigs confined in gestation crates suffer both leg and joint problems along with psychosis resulting from extreme boredom and frustration.
Confinement in gestation crates is so abusive that the entire European Union is phasing out the practice, with a total ban taking effect in 2013. Numerous American animal scientists also oppose these cruel crates. Farm animal expert Dr. Temple Grandin states, "Gestation crates for pigs are a real problem ... Basically, you're asking a sow to live in an airline seat ... I think it's something that needs to be phased out."
Under Smithfield's plan, breeding sows will instead be housed in group pens in which they have some freedom of movement and the ability to socialize.
Smithfield Foods CEO stated, "While this will be a significant financial commitment for our company over the next 10 years, we believe it's the right thing to do."
Florida citizens voted to prohibit gestation crate confinement in 2002, and the Arizona measure was approved in 2006. HSUS has been considering replicating these campaigns in other states in the 2008 elections.
The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization with nearly 10 million members and constituents. The HSUS is a mainstream voice for animals, with active programs in companion animals, disaster preparedness and response, wildlife and habitat protection, marine mammals, animals in research, equine protection, and farm animal welfare. The HSUS protects all animals through education, investigation, litigation, legislation, advocacy and field work. The nonprofit organization is based in Washington and has field representatives and offices across the country. Its site is at www.humanesociety.org.
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