Image: Screenshot via HSUS
Despite what seems like increased media attention on some of the cruelty and environmental abuses at factory farms over the last year, the worst practices continue unchecked. The latest exposé comes from a factory farm owned by a subsidiary of the world's largest pork producer, Smithfield Foods. Through an undercover investigation in Virginia, the Humane Society of the U.S. caught horrific treatment of female pigs and piglets on video.The video even has Mark Bittman riled up and calling for action:
I'm usually not one to cry "boycott," but if you, like Paula Deen, are a Smithfield supporter - in fact, if you're still eating industrially raised pork (or chicken or beef or fish for that matter) - get real. Any industry (and Smithfield is hardly alone, though it does seem to be performing most egregiously) that operates with such infuriating disregard for the welfare of their animals deserves all the trouble we can muster.
The summary of the investigation is available online, and the video of the Smithfield farm below, which illustrates female pigs crammed into gestation crates too small to let them move around, which often leads to the pigs biting the bars of the crates.
The investigator never saw a veterinarian at the operation. A barn manager told the investigator to ignore a pig with a basketball-sized abscess on her neck, and then cut the abscess open with an unsterilized razor.
Employees jabbed a lame pig's neck and back with gate rods to force her to move.
Three times, the investigator informed employees that a pig was thrown into a dumpster alive. The animal had been shot in the forehead with a captive bolt gun, which is designed to render an animal unconscious, and was thrown in the dumpster still alive and breathing.
Employees mishandled piglets and tossed them into carts.
Some piglets prematurely born in gestation crates fell through the slats into the manure pits.
HSUS says the investigation is the latest in a series looking at the "operations of the nation's top animal agribusinesses. It follows HSUS investigations last month into Cal-Maine Foods, the country's largest egg producer, and Willmar Poultry, the nation's top turkey hatchery. In each case, The HSUS found unacceptable and systemic abuses, revealing that these companies do not always observe even minimal best practices when it comes to animal welfare."
More on factory farming
A Picture is Worth: Factory Farms in US Mapped in Their Polluting, Graphic, Gory Detail
Factory Farms Decreasing in Number, But Increasing in Size: 20 Percent Growth in 5 Years
Eat This, Not That, in 2010
7 Reasons Not to Eat Factory-Farmed Food