Header graphic for print

Food Safety News

Breaking news for everyone's consumption

A Sow’s Life May Be Improving; But Pigs Still Abused

In two separate events, Safeway this week promised to phase out the use of sow gestation crates, while a new undercover video surfaced in Wyoming pointing to animal cruelty by a pork supplier.


Employees at Wyoming Premium Farms — a supplier to Tyson, albeit a small one — were seen on the videotape and in photos hitting, kicking, throwing and dragging pigs.

“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 chief executive officer of the Humane Society of the U.S.

Denver-based Itoham America Inc., subsidiary of a Japanese company, was reported to be the owner of Wyoming Premium Farms,  which is located about 150 miles north of Denver in Wheatland, WY. However, a Denver television station said that company filed dissolution papers with the Colorado Secretary of State on April 6.

The company is believed to be the target of an investigation into animal cruelty by the Platte County Sheriff. Tyson said Wyoming Premium does not provide pork used in its regular processing business.

Meanwhile this week, the retail giant Safeway announced it was going to “give preferences to pork suppliers who phase out individual sow housing,” or so-called gestation crates, that keep sows in a tight space for most of their lives.

“We hope that Safeway’s announcement will send a strong signal to the pork industry that confining pigs in crates so small they cannot even turn around or lie down comfortably is blatant animal abuse that will not be tolerated by socially responsible grocers,” said Mercy for Animals’ Nathan Runkle.

Last year, Iowa Select Farms, a Safeway pork supplier, was the target of an undercover video showing animal cruelty at that facility.

While the National Pork Producers Council said Safeway was “intimidated” by animal rights groups, Mercy’s Runkle called upon Walmart, Kroger and Costco to follow Safeway’s lead in “taking a stance against inherently cruel gestation crates.” Earlier this year, McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Burger King announced plans to sever ties with pork suppliers who use gestation crates. 

Gestation crates have been banned by the European Union and the states of Florida, Arizona, Ohio, Oregon, Colorado, California, Maine and Michigan.  Veterinarians and scientists, including famed animal welfare expert Temple Grandin, discourage their use.

Asked about the Wyoming investigation, Runkle said:  “This case graphically illustrates that the meat industry is incapable of self-regulation and that without undercover investigations, there are no meaningful watchdogs protecting animals from egregious cruelty

in these facilities. 

“Animal cruelty runs rampant on factory farms, and the industry knows it. ” 

Iowa and Utah earlier this year passed new laws designed to outlaw the kind of  undercover investigations into animal treatment that have been used by animal rights groups like the Humane Society and Mercy for Animals.

“Rather than improve conditions for animals, pro-agribusiness legislators are attempting to silence individuals who seek to expose and stop it. That is why these ag-gag bills are so dangerous – they shield animal abusers from public scrutiny and create a safe haven for criminal activity inside factory farms.

“Mercy for Animals feels that the ag-gag laws are a clear violation of free speech and freedom of the press and is exploring all legal avenues to overturn them,” Runkle told Food Safety News. “In the meantime, MFA will continue with our undercover investigations in states where lawmakers are working to prevent and prosecute cruelty to animals, not make it harder to expose.”

Animal cruelty can cause animals to experience disease-causing stress, which often makes these undercover investigations as important to food safety as they as to inhumane treatment of animals.

The National Pork Producers Council says gestation stalls are appropriate for use for sows during pregnancy.  It cites the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians as sources for its position.

© Food Safety News
  • Ted

    Oh c’mon now Dan, have you really been deluded into believing every employee of every “factory farm” spends all day “hitting, kicking, throwing and dragging pigs”? Do you honestly believe this cannot occur on any farm of any size? Unfortunately,cruel people practice their physical or verbal cruelty ubiquitously; on some of our farms, on some of our playgrounds, on some of our streets, in some our workplaces, in some of our homes, in some of our activist cults, perhaps even among some of our cherished journalists. Cruelty is intolerable wherever it is encountered, of course, but it is not resolved by singling out and smearing entire industries. For example, journalists as a rule are well-intended and pretty fair in their reporting…except when one is shown, in a momentary lapse of probity, to be a shrill agenda-driven propagandist…then all journalists are cruel sensationalizing outrage mongers and all publishing should thus be vilified and banned. Sometimes you report so credibly Dan, exhibiting the self-control of a professional but then at other random times…

  • BB

    Dan is not saying every employee on a hog “factory farm” abuses animals. The article title acknowledges improvements, but says there are still issues. I don’t see a problem with that.

  • Nancy Kaplan

    I don’t think sows would agree with this headline. How are their lives getting better? Today’s sows will be long dead before gestation crates are eliminated but make no mistake — they will be eliminated. On another note, I’ve noticed the agriculture industry’s keeps focusing on how the random acts of cruelty found at Wyoming Premium are not happening everywhere. I’m sure that’s true. What consumers like me want is to see pork suppliers address the larger issue of institutionalized cruelty in the form of gestation crates. The more I learn about the industry, the harder I work to find humanely raised pork products for my family. I can’t be alone.

  • paul

    The meat industry is built on cruelty for profit; it sadistically exploits the innocent, suffering animals who give their miserable lives to satisfy our greediness, and it is ludicrous to compare factory “farms” to other industries.

  • Minkpuppy

    I don’t get the whole gestation crate thing and never will. My family raised hogs for many years and not once did my father ever consider using gestation crates for his sows. He bred them on pasture and the pregnant sows were kept in group pens. They didn’t fight and the gilts were housed seperately from the older sows to prevent such problems. The only time the sows were crated was during farrowing and then only until the piglets were weaned. They had plenty of room to stand up and lie down. Yes, occasionally we would lose piglets because the sow laid down on them but since we had a high average litter size, we didn’t worry about that much.
    Dad culled any sows that showed signs of savaging their pigs after farrowing or tried to kill him when he did the standard post-natal iron shots etc. He didn’t want crazy sows. Calm females are much easier to work with.
    I’ve seen the argument that crates are necessary to prevent fighting, among other things. From my experience, that dog doesn’t hunt with me. Our farm had healthy sows that were easy to work with and keeping them crated all their lives just wasn’t needed. It requires more labor and attention to the animals, but it’s worth it in my opinion.
    Maybe we had fewer problems with fighting because we raised our own replacement gilts. Since the sows and gilts were mothers and daughters, its possible they were less prone to fighting. There’s going to be dominance fighting problems when you force a bunch of unrelated animals together into the same pen. Just seems to me that you could avoid it by paying attention to how the sow interact and seperate them rather than penning them up into individual crates for their whole lives.
    Hog farming sure ain’t what it was when I was a kid. I’m beginning to understand why Dad decided to get out of it. He just couldn’t compete with the likes of Murphy Farms.

  • Lora J

    Nancy Kaplan – you are NOT alone!!!!

  • federal microbiologist

    In the Farce Department, the ‘Center for Food Integrity’, a front group created by public relations executive Charlie Arnot to benefit Industrial Food Animal Production (IFAP) businesses, has announced that its ‘Animal Care Review Panel’ will be “analyzing the actions” shown in the HSUS video, and will (apparently at some point) “release a response”.
    Arnot’s ‘expert panel’ includes (inevitably) Temple Grandin, whose role as the Interpretive Guru of animal behavior in relation to IFAP grows less credible with each passing year.
    Also on the panel is an ‘ethicist’ and animal welfare expert from Purdue University named Candace Croney; she has previously served on advisory panels for the HSUS, and also the National Pork Board, Bob Evans Farms, and the Animal Agriculture Alliance.
    Then third panelist is John Deen, a DVM at the University of Minnesota vet school who specializes in production medicine, and the ergonomics of swine CAFOs, in particular. Deen has received funding from the National Pork Producers Council, the National Pork Board, and Pharmacia Animal Health.
    Needless to say, I’m not holding my breath in the expectation that Arnot’s Animal Care Review Panel will announce anything substantive in regard to their ‘analysis’ of the Wyoming Premium Farms debacle…..

  • Cyndy

    Nancy and Lora,
    Please look up Animal Welfare Approved on the Internet! This organization is dedicated to humanely raised farm animals. I should know — I raise laying hens and my girls are extremely happy and healthy! I know there are alot of AWA farmers who also raise pastured pigs and I have personally seen some of their set-ups, and, if I was a pig, this is the way I would want to live!

  • Roger D.

    Suddenly every Tom, Dick and Harry is a freaking armchair pig farming expert! How convenient. I vividly recall visiting one of these outdoor pig farms. It was a muddy mess swarming with flies and it stunk to high heaven. If I learned I was eating pork from an inexcusable “small local” cesspit like that I would get sick. But help yourselves to it, you are welcome to all of it.