Mercy for Animals in Canada has uncovered horrific abuse to pigs at one of the nation's largest pork producers, Puratone, in Arborg, Manitoba, raising support for adopting a vegetarian diet. Gestation crates that are considered inhumane in Europe are being used, causing broken necks and sores.
Piglets that don’t grow fast enough are slammed against the ground and left to die painfully and slowly.
The footage, taken at Puratone, uncovers thousands of pregnant pigs, many sick and in pain; confined to gestation crates with no ability to turn around or even lay down.
Conditions at Puratone are described as ‘filthy’ enough to attract maggots.
Puratone has published a letter in response to the allegations, stating they will launch an investigation. The footage they claim does not “reflect our animal welfare and policy principles.”
The Manitoba government is also launching an investigation. CJOB reported:
“The Province's Chief Veterinarian Dr. Wayne Lees says whether the video can be used in the investigation will require those who took it, to verify exactly when and where it was taken. Lees says swine codes are currently under review. He suspects while some of the practices seen in the video may be acceptable under old standards, the codes will likely be updated.”
Workers are seen slapping, kicking and pulling pigs by the ears to force them to walk – the cries from the animals attest to their suffering. The footage captures their pain and the open sores.
Tiny baby pigs are shown as workers cut off their testicles and tails with no anesthetic – again, squealing in pain.
Other pigs are seen blinking and conscious after having bolts slammed into their heads to render them unconscious before they are killed.
Mercy for Animals writes, “Dr. Ian Duncan, professor emeritus at the University of Guelph, and holder of the oldest university chair in animal welfare in North America, stated: “It is the worst cruelty inflicted on an animal that I have witnessed in many years.”
Dr. Temple Grandin, the world's leading expert on farmed animal welfare supports phasing out gestation crates, yet the pork industry continues to support their use.
Costco, Safeway, McDonald’s, Tim Hortons, and over 30 other major retailers in Canada and the United States have started demanding that their suppliers do away gestation crates, also recognizing the cruelty of not allowing an animal to move.
Sobeys, Superstore/Loblaws, Metro, and Walmart however condone their use, perhaps aligning with the pork industry who insists it’s humane because it keeps the pigs from fighting, extends their lives and produces better quality meat.
Some pork producers feel they are being misrepresented and that gestation crates are safe, economical and safer for pigs.
The Beatrice Daily Sun reported in October, 2012 that gestation crates keep costs down, defending the practice in response to concerns from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).
Nebraska Pork Producers President Shane Meyer told the Daily Sun if you let pigs out of their stalls they will inflict serious injury on each other.
HSUS recommends switching from crates to pens, but Meyer said it would “impossible” because of cost.
“Changing to pen gestation would probably cost us $1 million,” Meyer said. He claims most pork producers are learning how to take better care of pigs in gestation crates. He claimed HSUS is trying to change policy and eliminate meat consumption by playing on people’s emotions.
According to a report from the Institute of Nutritional Sciences, University of Giessen, Giessen, Germany, “The benefits arise from lower intakes of saturated fat, cholesterol and animal protein as well as higher intakes of complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, magnesium, folic acid, vitamin C and E, carotenoids and other phytochemicals.”
Researchers write eating a balanced vegetarian diet is appropriate for all stages of life and can be beneficial for preventing heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer osteoporosis, kidney disease and dementia in addition to rheumatoid arthritis, gallstone and dementia.
The authors also note a vegetarian diet is economical and addresses social and environmental concerns like those uncovered by Mercy for Animals and other animal welfare organizations.
Mercy for Animals (MFA), PETA and HSUS all support a vegetarian lifestyle, as do many celebrities. Adopting a vegetarian diet is not only humane – it’s better for our health. You might also consider research showing higher than known levels of MRSA that have been found in retail pork.
WARNING: The undercover footage is disturbing. You can watch the MFA video here.
UPDATE: Sadly, an expert panel review of the Mercy for Animals footage determined "...while some of the animal handling practices shown are improper, most of what is seen are widely considered acceptable and humane", again defending the meat industry's standards for treatment of animals.
Image credit: Morguefile