Pork industry should stop defending indefensible practices

Wanda Patsche’s Minnesota Blog Cabin piece was a perfect example of just how far removed the pork industry is from mainstream American sentiment about how animals ought to be treated (“What I wish people knew about pig farming,” October 7).

It’s typical in the animal factories that produce most of the pork in our country to lock pigs in “gestation crates” so small they can’t even turn around for months on end. Such extreme confinement leads to crippling lameness, and the mental toll the deprivation takes on these highly intelligent animals is also enormous.

That’s why this inhumane practice is widely derided by animal welfare experts, including Temple Grandin, Ph.D., perhaps the most renowned animal scientist in the country. She states, “I feel very strongly that we’ve got to treat animals right, and the gestation stalls have got to go.” And even many of the biggest pork buyers, like McDonald’s, say this standard pork industry practice is “unsustainable” and will be phased out of its supply chain.

If pork industry spokespeople are serious about preventing animal cruelty, the first step they should take is stop doing what Ms. Patsche is doing — defending practices Americans know are indefensible — and start improving their own record on such matters.

Paul Shapiro is vice president of farm animal protection for The Humane Society of the United States.

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Comments (8)

  1. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 10/14/2014 - 10:01 pm.

    And the author knows this how?

    “and the mental toll the deprivation takes on these highly intelligent animals is also enormous.”

    Did scientists ask the hogs or give them mental tests before and after confinement?

    Cites please.

    • Submitted by jason myron on 10/15/2014 - 03:21 pm.

      Cage your dog

      under the same conditions and find out for yourself.

      • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 10/15/2014 - 07:13 pm.

        Don’t have one.

        Not sure how dogs work their way into a discussion about hog mental capacity but I’m sure it makes sense to someone. As to my point… Cites please.

        • Submitted by Todd Hintz on 10/16/2014 - 08:25 am.

          Bark Bark Bark

          Ah, the ol’ “I have NO idea what you could possibly mean” defense. (Bat baby blue eyes at this point.)

          • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 10/16/2014 - 10:32 pm.

            No, I really don’t own a dog.

            And I still am not sure how dogs belong in a discussion about hog mentality. Perhaps some other reader could enlighten me and provide us all with the scientific studies showing the mental effects of confinement on hogs.

  2. Submitted by Joe Smithers on 10/16/2014 - 03:38 pm.

    Who’s barking?

    Ah, the ol’ “I’m going to talk smart and talk down to people to make myself seem smarter when I really have no idea what I am talking about” thing. Hogs with crippling lameness and severe stress due to these suggested types of confinement won’t produce so I simply have to doubt the validity of the article. How in the world would any company expect to make any money if this is the case? Truth is they wouldn’t so the author must have at least some of his facts wrong. Mr. Shapiro’s credentials clearly state he is a member of one of the most extremist organizations known. The HSUS. Their tactics are what are indefensible. They simply do not know what they are talking about and twist facts around all the time. It’s been proven already and it’s about time the public wakes up and see’s them for what they are. Terrorists.

    • Submitted by Pat Berg on 10/16/2014 - 05:38 pm.

      Don’t faint . . . . .

      But I actually agree with you on something. Sort of. I don’t trust the agenda of HSUS either, although I wouldn’t go quite so far as to call them terrorists. I do, however, consider them glory hounds who exist mainly to collect donations and further their agenda of self-aggrandizement.

      But with that out of the way, now I have to question one of your assertions. Just exactly what is a sow in a gestation crate expected to “produce” besides babies? Something she can do without being required to move a step thanks to artificial insemination.

      In fact, here’s a question for you – Once she has reached breeding age, what percentage of her life does a sow spend NOT in a gestation or farrowing crate?

      Just a question. Hopefully you can provide just an answer.

  3. Submitted by Joe Smithers on 10/17/2014 - 09:58 am.

    Glad we agree on HSUS

    I guess calling them terrorists may be a little much but they do use some tactics that are very unsavory including criminal acts and frequent lying.

    Unfortunately I do not have all the answers for you since I am not in the producing industry anymore. I am in the regulatory area now and know many producers. My assertion is that if being in gestation crates is so terrible for the pigs they will obviously produce less and be less beneficial to the owner. It’s simple economics and wouldn’t make sense to the owner. This doesn’t mean that no company does not do some of the things stated in the article but I don’t think it is fair to chastise Ms. Patsche as the author has done as well as the industry as a whole because of a couple of bad apples. As a whole the industry tries to be humane and produce the best product they can.

    I don’t know about the sows whole life but I know that I was involved in raising swine they weren’t in the crates for more than about 3-4 weeks at a time til the nursery swine could be weaned and then put back out until they were ready to be bred again. I think they were bred 2-4 times a year but not positive on that. The industry has changed since then and usually the nursery swine are weaned earlier to increase their rate of gain so sows spend less time in the crates than they used to. Weanishers are pretty common now days and are typically 30-40lbs vs. the 55-60lb weaned nursery swine we used to have. Hope some of this info helps.

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