Mercy for Animals, an animal rights organization, brought its crusade against confinement farming in the pork industry to Kansas City on Wednesday.
The group, which took undercover film in a Colorado pig farm owned by Merriam-based Seaboard Foods, is asking Seaboard and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which buys Seaboard pork, to change production practices.
Nick Cooney, director of education for Mercy for Animals, said nine U.S. states and the European Union have passed laws banning gestation crates for pregnant pigs.
Those states are Florida, Arizona, Oregon, California, Ohio, Maine, Michigan, Rhode Island and Colorado, but Colorado’s law isn’t effective until 2018.
Cooney called on Seaboard to follow the lead of its competing pork producers, Cargill, Smithfield and Hormel, which have committed to phasing out gestation crates that don’t allow the pigs to turn around, walk or lie down comfortably.
He also said Wal-Mart should follow the lead of its competing retailers and restaurant operators, including Safeway, Kroger, Costco, Kmart, McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and Chipotle in requiring their pork suppliers to stop using gestation crates.
Seaboard responded through a spokesman that “we recognize that sometimes even the best practices as determined by veterinarians and animal care experts can seem uncomfortable to those who don’t spend their days with these animals, but at Seaboard Foods, we are committed to doing what is best for the pigs and the safety of our food.”
The statement said Seaboard follows a “veterinarian-developed animal care and welfare plan that is consistent with what experts know to be the safest way to raise pigs” and that its employees are trained in humane treatment.
A Wal-Mart spokesman said the retailer’s policy “requires all suppliers and producers to source only from farms certified as adhering to pork industry and USDA standards for the treatment of animals.”
“We also provide our customers choices,” said spokesman John Forrest Ales. “Today in more than 2,000 stores we offer the option of gestation stall-free pork.”
The Mercy for Animals video, narrated by movie star Joaquin Phoenix, showed pigs confined side by side in narrow metal crates in a large production facility. It showed piglet tails cut off and testicles ripped out with what was said to be “dull razors and their fingers.” It showed piglets being hit with a rock-filled gas can to prod movement into trucks.
Cooney said pigs are intelligent and social animals that suffer physical and psychological harm from confinement and that “animals with legs should be given the ability to walk.”
The animal rights group posted its film of conditions at the Seaboard pig farm in Yuma, Colo., at www.walmartcruelty.com.
Seaboard has posted its own film about its farming practices at www.SeaboardFoods.com.
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