In case you missed it, today was Food Day – an opportunity to focus on our food system and the diversity within. The Humane Society of the United States (read my thoughts on the organization here) took advantage of this event to aim at modern pork production.
The HSUS, not affiliated with your local pet shelters, released a short animated film aimed to expose children to their view of modern pork production. A similar film from Chipotle sparked controversy last year. This current film focuses on pork housing and tail docking.
According to the video description, the film will “take viewers into a pig factory farm” where “young pig Ginger is surprised to find out how pigs are treated on factory-style farms and hatches a plan to find a better life for herself and her friends.”
I may not be a pork farmer, but I do know from my experiences that “factory farms” are not as portrayed in the public eye. I shared my thoughts recently using cattle feedlots as an example.
The video and it’s use of emotional appeal to draw young viewers to HSUS’ agenda concerns me, but I am glad to have many friends who can answer my questions.
U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) is a group encouraging discussions between farmers and ranchers of all sizes and their customers to discuss these things. They have shared a few thoughts on the topic and educational points about pork production that are worth passing along. I hope we can take them into consideration with this “A Pig’s Tail” video from HSUS.
Thoughts from USFRA’s View:
This video uses emotion and children’s entertainment unfairly to manipulate the American public. Further, it is being targeted at educators to take into the classroom.
The truth is that farmers and ranchers of all sizes are committed to the humane treatment of their animals.
The vast majority of farmers and ranchers care deeply about their animals and take pride in them. USFRA believes that farmers and ranchers and our partners strive to keep their farm animals safe, healthy and comfortable. Well cared for animals, under the guidance of veterinarians, is paramount to a safe and healthy food supply. Farmers and ranchers use a variety of animal husbandry practices, housing strategies and healthcare to decrease disease risk and promote animal health. Additionally, farmers recognize consumers concerns regarding animal care.
The bottom line is that today’s farm animals live healthier lives than ever before. For example, today’s farming and ranching have virtually eliminated some former common causes of human foodborne illnesses. Pigs raised indoors, a practice that sometimes elevates concerns, has made a great difference in the safety of pork. Pathogens, such as Trichinella spiralis, formerly one of the most prominent pathogens, have largely disappeared with the movement of pigs to indoor production.
Please help spread the word about how manipulative and unfair this video is. Share your stories about animal care widely. Send letters to your local newspaper and tell your friends and family.
A Few Facts about Pork Production:
Why do farmers remove the tail of a pig – the process known as “tail docking”? Tail docking is a practice that’s long been used on farms to protect pigs against the spread of infection. Farmers know it’s important to create social environments for pigs in the barn, but they are realistic about the threats that can arise.
When in a group, pigs will often nibble on each other’s tails as a way to explore their environment. But pigs have sharp teeth, and this behavior can escalate quickly when blood is drawn. Other pigs become attracted to the bitten tail and contribute to an open wound that is likely to get infected.
By docking the tails of piglets when they are just a few days old, our farmers can prevent potential infections that could spread throughout the herd and even result in death. Keep in mind tail docking is done early in a pig’s life, quickly and according to veterinarian guidelines. The piglet is returned to his mother to nurse and is quickly playing with others soon after.
Why are pregnant sows housed in stalls? It is a farmer’s job to ensure the meat it sells is safe and comes from animals raised in a humane fashion. Peer-reviewed research shows overwhelmingly that both individual stalls and open pens are appropriate ways to provide good care to pregnant sows.
The housing used by most farmers was designed to protect sows while they are most vulnerable, during their pregnancies. This is done to protect the pregnant sows from bullying by other pigs, who by nature develop and establish a hierarchical social order.
Pig farmers and veterinarians continue to look for ways to keep pregnant sows safe and comfortable. Working with animal scientists, research is being done to understand the effects of various housing options and find better ways.
Does the pork industry have standards for how its farmers raise pigs? The National Pork Board created the Pork Quality Assurance® program more than 20 years ago and updates it frequently to include the latest knowledge on animal care and the use of animal-health products. Farmers also created the We Caresm initiative, which helps everyone involved in the care of pigs demonstrate how they conduct themselves to make sure they are doing the right thing every day.
Read this New York Times article about one farmer who moved sows from housing pens to gestation crates to ensure their safety.
Hear directly from producers about their commitment to responsible pork production.
Watch an Indiana farmer showcase how he cares for pigs on his family’s farm. Hear him share how technology and innovation have positively changed the ways pigs are born and raised on farms today.
Hear Animal Chef, Jon Shook, talks about lessons learned during the L.A. Food Dialogues regarding a common misconception about how pigs are raised.
Check out “Veterinarians on Call,” a YouTube Chanel sponsored by Pfizer Animal Health that features stories of vets caring for animals in clinics, hospitals, shelters, farms and ranches, including pig farms.
Listen to pig farmers talk about the level of care that they provide their animals on their individuals farms via the Pork Checkoff’s YouTube channel.
- Ask A Farmer: Questions about food and farming abound (agricultureproud.com)
- Pork, a new perspective, Meet @CityGirl4Ag (farmingamerica.org)
- CNN Eatocracy: Can we find civil food conversations online? (agricultureproud.com)