Animal rights group Mercy for Animals has released hidden-camera video allegedly showing instances of animal abuse at pork producer Christensen Farms, one of the largest pork producers in the nation and a supplier of pork to Walmart. The video, taken at a farm in Hanska, Minn., is narrated by Bob Barker and shows pregnant sows in gestation crates and piglets being slammed into the ground and having their tails and testicles cut off without painkillers.
Mercy for Animals has called for WalMart to adopt new animal welfare guidelines that prohibit the use of gestation crates. The crates are legal, though more food suppliers are changing their welfare guidelines to prohibit or phase out their use. Kmart and Costco have announced such changes after speaking with MFA officials and viewing the video.
"The hidden cost of Walmart's cheap products is blatant animal abuse," said MFA's executive director, Nathan Runkle. "No animal should suffer a lifetime locked in a crate so small she can't even turn around or lie down comfortably. It's high time that Walmart took meaningful action to ensure that the animals raised and killed for its stores do not endure lives filled with pain and misery."
Christensen Farms CEO Robert Christensen issued a statement in reaction to the video that stated, "We are committed to taking proper care of our animals. Over the years we have continually challenged ourselves to improve our operational practices involving the humane and ethical treatment of animals. We have reviewed the video and have noted no exceptions to our company procedures or industry standards. If we do find employee misconduct or abuse we will take immediate action."
In a separate statement, Christensen Farms noted that the video “purports to show a typical operation of a pork production farm, but the images shown in the video are dated and are intentionally taken out of context.”
Gestation crates, the company said, allow producers to provide the best individual care to sows and their piglets and are within the standard of animal welfare practices. It also pointed out that blunt force trauma is accepted by the American Association of Swine Veterinarians as a method of euthanasia, though the company adopted the use of carbon dioxide as a form of euthanasia as of February 2012. Tail docking, the company adds, is a standard animal welfare practice that is done to prevent injury, and it noted that the photos may have been taken out of context.
“The injuries shown in the Mercy for Animals video appear to have occurred just prior to the footage being shot,” the company said. “Under existing procedures, those animals would have been treated by staff on the farm under veterinary supervision.”
Sources: Mercy for Animals, Christensen Farms