The Humane Society of the United States applauds Target – the nation’s fourth-largest food retailer with nearly 1,800 locations in 49 states – for wielding its immense purchasing power to make a huge improvement in animal welfare by eliminating controversial pig gestation crates from its pork supply chain. The tiny cages are used to virtually immobilize breeding pigs.
“Target is committed to working with our vendors on the elimination of sow gestation crates by 2022,” states the company on its Responsible Sourcing website. “Target recognizes this task will involve a large undertaking from our pork product vendors and we will partner closely with our vendors as they work through this transition.”
The Humane Society of the United States supports Target’s progress.
“Target’s got gestation crates in its crosshairs and should be commended for working to improve conditions for pigs in its supply chain,” stated Matthew Prescott, food policy director for The HSUS. “Americans simply don’t support the lifelong confinement of animals in cages so small they can’t even turn around, and it’s both an ethical decision and good business move for Target to recognize that.”
The similar announcements made recently by McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Oscar Mayer, Costco, Safeway, Kroger and more than 30 other leading food companies signal a reversal in a three-decade-old trend in the pork industry that leaves most breeding pigs 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 more.
- Nine U.S. states have passed laws to ban the gestation crate confinement of breeding 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.”
- Leading pork producers Smithfield and Hormel have pledged to end the use of gestation crates at their company-owned facilities by 2017, and Cargill is already 50 percent crate-free.
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