We’re suing the world’s largest pork producer for misleading the public about animal abuse

By on October 18, 2021 with 10 Comments

Today the Humane Society of the United States filed a lawsuit against Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer, for misleading consumers about animal abuse in its supply chain.

A little background: It is common practice in big animal agriculture to use “gestation crates.” These cages are barely larger than a pig’s body, and these cages are where female pigs are locked away while they are pregnant, which happens repeatedly throughout their lives, so they produce more and more pigs. We have documented these intelligent animals gnawing on the bars of their gestation crates until their mouths bleed—an act of desperate frustration. So, it’s no wonder that people are increasingly demanding the end of gestation crates. Companies like Smithfield want to give the people what they want—or, in Smithfield’s case, they want to appear to.

Our lawsuit alleges that Smithfield is unlawfully misleading the public about having eliminated gestation crates for mother pigs—cages barely larger than the animals’ own bodies that prevent them from even turning around.

Smithfield’s gestation crate promise goes back over a decade: In 2007, Smithfield promised to phase out gestation crates on all company-owned farms within a decade. Then, in 2009, Smithfield backtracked on that promise. In response, our HSUS investigators went undercover at a Smithfield-owned subsidiary’s sow farm in Virginia. What they captured was the brutal reality these highly intelligent, sensitive animals face when locked inside gestation crates. Soon after, Smithfield recommitted to eliminating gestation crates by 2017.

Fast forward to 2018, when Smithfield claimed to have achieved its promise to eliminate gestation crates on all company-owned farms by converting to a “group housing” system, where mother pigs are housed in groups instead of locked in individual cages.

But, in reality, Smithfield did not eliminate gestation crates, and only marginally improved these animals’ lives.

Smithfield’s so-called “group housing” system is actually a cycle that moves pigs from crates to groups and back to crates again for their whole lives. Thus, despite Smithfield’s deceptive claims, even for animals on company-owned farms, the gestation crate practice was merely reduced, not eliminated; sows still spend roughly half of their lives imprisoned in crates.

Innumerable consumers shop with animal welfare in mind, and many of Smithfield’s largest corporate customers have made their own commitments to eliminate gestation crates from their supply chains. Thus, it is unlawfully misleading, our lawsuit alleges, for Smithfield to claim it has met its commitment (which was to eliminate gestation crates) when, in fact, pigs still remain locked in crates on Smithfield’s factory farms for much of their lives.

Ending cruel farm animal confinement is a top priority for us. No company should be able to get away with seeking humane consumers’ dollars while engaging in cruel practices behind closed doors. We will hold these companies accountable to their promises.

Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.

Farm Animals

Subscribe to the Blog

Enter your email address below to receive updates each time we publish new content.


Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Diana Lewis says:

    What deception! Thankful you are Pursuing this legally!

  2. Alan Alejandro Maldonado Ortiz says:

    No podemos permitir qué No siga mintiendo sigan siendo los animales no es justo esto tiene que acabar ya por favor no más crueldad y violencia hacia los animalitos y todos los seres vivos

  3. Dave Boules says:

    I feel as the majority of others in sure do that this is cruel and inhumane and evil to treat animals this way. No abuse or neglect in any way can ever be justified. It should never happen.

  4. Jeane Camargo da Silva says:

    Triste, lamentável, decepcionante!!! Até quando as indústrias praticarão essa crueldade???

  5. BeKindToAnimals says:

    One can vote with their dollars by refusing to buy factory farmed meat. If on a budget one can still buy quality meat but just eat less by adding lots of veggies which is better for us anyway (my tactic). Glad the HSUS is suing and hope is with you.

  6. Devin Jane Buckley says:

    So sad that lawsuits are the only way to move corporations to do the right thing. Just shows how important it is to have the funds and legal backing! HSUS is a powerful ally of animals.

  7. John says:

    Excellent sue them back to the stone age

  8. David Nute says:

    There has to be severe penalties when a company goes back on their promise and then lies to its customers that they have complied. These animals deserve much better.

  9. Diane propeck says:

    Horrible cruelty for money..absolutely the worst situation for the sows…how do these barbarians sleep at night
    Stop gestation crate torture now! Smithfield you are a group of liars and heartless creatures..I hope the majority of your customers stop buying from u….your cruelty discuss me..no longer a customer

  10. laurie lombardi says:

    These conditions are deplorable! You all lied to the public.
    you under estimate pigs, their intelligence, love, and the chronic suffering your company once stated would END!

Share a Comment

The HSUS encourages open discussion, and we invite you to share your opinion on our issues. By participating on this page, you are agreeing to our commenting policy.
Please enter your name and email address below before commenting. Your email address will not be published.