For decades animal rights groups have been fighting to try to improve the horrid conditions pigs endure while living in factory farms.
Perhaps some of the biggest pig companies have either been worn down, or have seen the light of their evil ways, but they just announced this week that they intend to stop their housing practices of pregnant pigs forced into gestation crates. These crates are metal cages that don't allow any movement for their entire pregnancy, and ending as well, their customary practices of killing sick and downed animals by "manual blunt force."
One of the bigger pork producers, Tyson Foods, has informed its 3,000 independent suppliers just this Wednesday, following a harrowing video that is going viral, which was taken at one of their producers in Oklahoma, showing the cruelty. This video inspired them to implement changes, and rightly so. Along with Smithfield Foods the biggest producer, announcing Tuesday that it is asking its growers to move pregnant sows from gestation crates to group housing by 2022.
The video shows workers hitting pigs with blunt objects including bowling balls, and some being slammed into concrete in an effort to kill them, rather than their typical practice of throwing them out into a "dead pile" allowing them to die slowly.
This change is partially due to decades of animal rights groups taking videos, lobbying and protesting their methods, and partly perhaps it has something to do with the trend that has caught on with other retailers and chains who are rapidly dropping suppliers that use the antiquated gestation system, opting for more humane practices.
Tyson Foods, in a statement said they are urging their pork producers to improve housing conditions for sows, so that they might stand, turn around and lie down with enough room to stretch their legs.
Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson said the Arkansas-based company hasn't taken a position against any particular type of housing, but wants producers to "improve housing systems for pregnant sows by focusing on both the quality and quantity of space provided, whether it involves gestation stalls, pens or some other type of housing."
"We're encouraging farmers to consider making these space improvements when they or the piglet suppliers redesign or build new gestation barns," Mickelson said.
Smithfield, the world's largest pork producer, has already said it was phasing out gestation crates at its U.S. facilities by 2017. The company has transitioned 54 percent of its pregnant sows to group housing so far and said in a statement this week that "animal care is one of our core sustainability commitments, and we are proud of our employee and company efforts to meet this goal."
"We recognize that these projects require a significant investment on the part of our growers," said Larry Pope, chief executive of Smithfield. "But a well-planned renovation to a group housing system will help maintain the farms' value for years to come, while at the same time supporting our company wide commitment to animal care."
Tyson has stated that by the end of the year, farmers who manage their sows must end their decade long practices of blunt force killing, and use methods that are in line with American Veterinary Medical Association guidelines.
Tyson dropped West Coast Farms, the Oklahoma hog producers shown in the video just after the footage surfaced.
The animal rights group Mercy For Animals (MFA) is responsible for the undercover video released in November. MFA Founder Nathan Runkle said in a statement that the efforts are commendable.
"We hope this announcement is more than PR hogwash and that Tyson acts quickly and diligently to implement these changes in order to spare millions of animals needless misery and suffering," said Runkle.
Image via YouTube