Like many animal protection advocates, I was heartened when Smithfield Foods—the world’s largest pork producer—announced in 2007 that it would phase out its use of gestation crates to confine breeding sows. At the time, the company stated it’d be rid of these cruel crates by 2017 at its company-owned facilities.
The self-imposed timeframe for getting rid of these inhumane contraptions—which virtually immobilize sows for their entire lives—was longer than I’d hoped for. That sows would continue being crammed into tiny metal crates no wider than their bodies (preventing the animals from even turning around) for another decade was difficult to accept. But it was the first time a major pork producer made such a commitment, and we applauded the company for its decision to move in a positive direction. We knew the decision could affect the lives of many future generations of breeding sows.
Then, in 2009, Smithfield put a “pause” on its commitment following an economic downturn. In a correspondence I had with Smithfield CEO C. Larry Pope at the time, I stated that while we were disappointed with the “pause,” we hoped Smithfield would set a new timeline for meeting its commitment. Pope ensured me that the company would do that just, writing, “I can confidently say…that once we see a recovery I will indeed set a timeline to complete this [phase-out] process.” (Read the full letter here.)
In 2010, an HSUS undercover investigation at a Smithfield subsidiary in Virginia found breeding sows who had bitten the bars of their crates until their mouths bled, others with injuries and open sores from the crates, and prematurely born piglets falling through the slats of the floor into manure pits—underscoring why these crates are fundamentally inhumane.
Yesterday, The Virginian-Pilot (Smithfield’s hometown newspaper) ran an article about Smithfield having posted “record profits” for its latest fiscal year. Smithfield is nearly three-quarters of a century old, and it made more profits this year than in any previous year. Mr. Pope, it is time to fulfill your commitment and get the crate ban back on track.
Smithfield’s own animal welfare advisor, Dr. Temple Grandin, says that Smithfield needs to quicken the conversion, further noting that “I also feel very strongly that we've got to treat animals right, and the gestation stalls have got to go."
I agree. If you do too, please let Smithfield know.
P.S. Also, tune in or set your TV to record this Monday, June 20 at 9 p.m. Eastern/Pacific, when Animal Planet will reveal new footage from an HSUS undercover investigation into captive hunting. This barbaric business allows trophy seekers to shoot tame, exotic animals inside fenced enclosures, everything from an endangered antelope to a kangaroo.