Following The Humane Society of the United States’ legal complaints to the Federal Trade Commission and Securities and Exchange Commission over false and misleading animal welfare statements made by Seaboard Foods, the nation’s third-largest pork producer, Seaboard has been forced to alter its online advertising around the hot-button topic of animal welfare throughout its operations.
Unfortunately, the company continues to use inhumane animal care practices at its farms, such as the extreme confinement of breeding pigs in small gestation crates.
“While we are pleased that Seaboard has been forced to abandon its misleading online advertising, it would be better if the company had changed its actual practices,” says Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president for animal protection litigation and investigations for The HSUS. “Seaboard is still confining animals in small cages where they can’t even turn around, contrary to good science, common sense and consumers’ desire for better treatment of animals.”
The complaints followed a 2011 HSUS undercover investigation that documented inhumane treatment of animals at a Seaboard facility. The investigation revealed pigs confined in tight gestation crates barely larger than their own bodies, preventing them from even turning around, and workers hitting animals, duct-taping their legs to their bodies and jabbing their eyes.
Seaboard’s lofty claims about animal care were in stark contrast to the findings in the investigation. Seaboard had claimed that the company uses “the most humane practices throughout the animal’s life…” In response to an FTC investigation triggered by The HSUS’ complaint, the company removed this false and misleading statement about its commitment to animal care.
In a related development, The HSUS filed a legal complaint with the FTC challenging deceptive aspects of a report entitled “Responsible Farming,” jointly authored by the National Pork Board and the National Pork Producers Council. In violation of FTC rules requiring full disclosure of significant connections between endorsers and the program/product endorsed, the report fails to point out that many of the individuals presented only as endorsing farmers in the report in fact have a vested interest in the programs they tout, as they are past or present officers or employees of NPB and NPPC.
Many of Seaboard’s major competitors in the pork industry including Smithfield, Cargill and Hormel have begun moving away from gestation crates, and nearly 50 of the nation’s largest food companies— including McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Costco, Safeway, Kroger and Oscar Mayer—have adopted purchasing policies that phase-out buying products from gestation crate operations.
- At Seaboard Foods operations, most breeding pigs are confined day and night in gestation crates during their four-month pregnancy. These cages are roughly the same size as the animals’ bodies and designed to prevent them from even turning around. The animals are subsequently transferred into another crate to give birth, re-impregnated, and put back into a gestation crate. This happens pregnancy after pregnancy for their entire lives, adding up to years of virtual immobilization. This confinement system has come under fire from veterinarians, farmers, animal welfare advocates, animal scientists, consumers and others.
- Nine U.S. states have passed laws to ban the gestation crate confinement of pregnant pigs.
- Renowned animal welfare scientist and advisor to the pork industry, Temple Grandin, Ph.D., is clear on this issue: “Confining an animal for most of its life in a box in which it is not able to turn around does not provide a decent life.” Grandin further states, “We’ve got to treat animals right, and the gestation stalls have got to go.”
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