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Good-bye Gestation Crates, Hello “Individual Maternity Pens”!

May 2, 2013

That looks comfy!

I’m betting that not many of you would like to spend your entire life locked in a cage so small that you can’t even turn around, as you are repeatedly inseminated and forced to bear dozens of offspring. Yet that is how the vast majority of pigs (highly social and intelligent animals) have been raised in this country for the last 40 years. It’s just another aspect of factory farming; it’s unimaginably cruel; and it is a practice that is finally under attack.

Sure, animal rights activists have attempted to bring attention to the practice for years, but it took exposure by a hidden camera expose to really bring the pressure. (You know, the very kind of undercover reporting the ag industry continues to push to  make illegal in several states.)  Success has come in the past year as many of the largest food companies in the world (McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Subway, Oscar Mayer, Kroger, Safeway, Costco, Denny’s, Jack in the Box, Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s, Sodexo, Sysco, ARAMARK, Bon Appétit, and more) have announced they will eliminate the use of gestation crates from their supply chains. For agribiz to comply with customer demands will take large investments in infrastructure changes.  (Boo hoo.)

But why adopt humane treatment of animals when you can just play the name game?!?

new and revealing column by pork industry veteran Linden Olson unashamedly advises fellow producers to simply change the way they talk about their most abusive practices, rather than changing the practices themselves.

For example, a standard pork industry practice is to lock breeding pigs — 500-pound, social, intelligent animals — inside two-foot-wide cages where they’re immobilized, unable even to turn around for nearly their entire lives. Nine states have outlawed these cages and more than 50 of the world’s largest food companies are in the process of banning them from their pork supply chains. But rather than encourage producers to embrace animal welfare reforms, such as using higher-welfare practices already utilized by many family farmers, Olson’s recommendation is simply to stop calling the cages “gestation crates” — which they’ve been called for decades — and start referring to them as “individual maternity pens.” Here again, we see agribusiness fail to understand the root of its crisis.

According to Olson, it’s not just extreme confinement practices that need an extreme makeover: The industry “harvests” animals rather than slaughters them; animals are “neutered,” rather than castrated without pain relief; and confinement barns in which animals never set foot on a blade of grass are really just “environmentally controlled housing.” (HuffPo – emphasis mine)

Were George Orwell’s writings not actually an indictment of this kind of double-speak, I’m sure he would be proud.

One Comment leave one →
  1. mikey2ct permalink
    May 2, 2013 2:15 pm

    Just another example of our market-based economy in action.

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