More than 70% of the nearly six million female pigs raised for breeding in the U.S. are kept nearly immobilized for months on end inside narrow metal gestation crates that are barely wider than their bodies. These sows are so intensively confined, they can’t even turn around. Unable to perform many of their most natural behaviors, these smart and social animals are treated as mere piglet-producing machines. They suffer both physically and mentally.
Experts widely agree that confining pigs in gestation crates causes immense suffering. Welfare concerns have already prompted the entire European Union (effective 2013) and eight US states to phase out this barbaric system of confinement.
Several major US companies are also moving away from the use of gestation crates, including Smithfield Foods and Cargill. Hormel recently announced that it will replace gestation crates with group sow housing at its “Hormel Foods-owned farms,” which is an encouraging first step, but this policy must be applied to all facilities ultimately supplying Hormel as well.
With the news that McDonald’s—one of the biggest buyers of pork in the US—is moving to end gestation crate confinement of pigs in its US supply chain, the writing for this inhumane practice is on the wall. It’s time for Hormel to extend its new gestation crate policy to all of its suppliers.