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Smithfield, Tyson Encouraging Transition Away From Gestation Crates

Major pork producers Smithfield Foods and Tyson Foods have both announced plans this week to develop animal welfare improvements within their facilities, including moving away from the practice of using sow gestation crates, small metal enclosures that hold pregnant female pigs for most of their adult lives.

Gestation crates have come under heavy criticism as inhumane for their use in large-scale animal farming, with the Humane Society of the United States leading efforts to have the practice discontinued.

Smithfield’s announcement put in place incentives for contract pork growers to shift to “group housing systems” for pregnant sows before 2022. After that, the company will only renew contracts with growers who have switched to the new system.

According to the announcement, the company has already transitioned 54 percent of sows on company-owned farms to the new system.

The Humane Society praised Smithfield’s move, saying that it put pressure on other major growers to do the same.

“The top producer is telling the world that a transition away from gestation crates is not just an aspiration, but is in the works, is economically viable, and is likely to be achieved in the near term. And we continue to help major food retailers commit to switching their purchasing to crate-free producers,” wrote Humane Society CEO Wayne Pacelle.

Tyson, in a letter to its pork suppliers sent Wednesday, said that it was asking all suppliers to improve “quality and quantity of space” for sows in any new or redesigned barns beginning in 2014.

“We believe future sow housing should allow sows of all sizes to stand, turn around, lie down and stretch their legs,” Tyson wrote.

The language of Tyson’s letter, however, does not mandate any such changes.

Tyson’s letter also urged growers to install video surveillance systems to “improve human behavior and animal handling,” alluding to incidences of animal abuse. The letter also discourages the continued use of blunt force to kill sick or injured piglets, referring to the practice of slamming piglets head-first into the ground.

“We recognize that this practice has been historically acceptable in the industry but may not match the expectations of today’s customers or consumers,” Tyson wrote.

Animal rights group Mercy for Animals said that Tyson’s move was in the right direction, but urged the company to fully mandate its suggestions.

“The pork industry’s use of gestation crates is one of the worst forms of institutionalized animal abuse in existence and we praise Tyson for acknowledging that this cruel system must be phased out,” the organization wrote.

More than 60 major food companies, including McDonald’s, Burger King, Safeway and Costco have demanded pork suppliers phase out gestation crates. Another major supplier, Cargill, has said it has gotten rid of 50 percent of its crates.

Gestation crates are banned in Arizona, California, Florida and Rhode Island, and five other states are requiring growers to phase them out. They are also banned in Sweden, Denmark and the United Kingdom, and will be banned in New Zealand by 2015 and Australia by 2017.

© Food Safety News
  • riverdivine

    The fact that the USDA allows (and we all subsidize, via The Farm Bill) these companies that implement these practices (and waiting until 2022 (!) to- maybe- end gestation crates) is sickening and shameful. These corporations should not only be out of business, but in prison for cruel and unusual and sustained animal abuse. A society that allows the torture of innocent, conscious, intelligent beings- for profit- is a regressed and barbaric society.

  • hilltop

    I am sick to my stomach after reading this and I agree totally with riverdivine. I will try never to eat pork again.

    • Lisa Scharin

      Write to Tyson & Smithfield and let them know you want them to end these crates sooner! They certainly have the funds to do so and would IF more “consumers” would let them know they are watching and care about this issue!!! In NJ Governor Christy vetoed a bill that would ban these crates. I grew up in NJ, live in SC now, but I called and let his office know how opposed I was to the veto! IF you are upset-DO SOMETHING to help create the change!!! Calling your Senators, Reps. Governors, means something! Ask to meet with them too! That is what I am doing! Go to Facebook pages, etc. spread the word and yeah, you know, it’s VERY, VERY easy to STOP eating animals ALL together and GO VEGAN!! There are wonderful alternatives out there and you will feel BETTER, be healthier and NOT have to think about your role in this abuse of factory farmed animals!! GO VEGAN!!! It’s also a HUGE help to the environment!

  • Amanda

    This is absolutely horrible!! I am upset, angry, in tears after seeing the video. What is being done about this? These people belong behind bars and tortured as well! I truly hope this is resolved asap! I don’t even think I can eat meat anymore after watching this. It is despicable, absolutely despicable!!!

  • heidi

    Buy 4-H raised animals they are always treated right and the meat is always better quality.