Humane Society Airs Concerns Over Gestation Crates- Updated with AudioTue, 31 Jan 2012 21:02:47 CST
UPDATE- Seaboard Farms has released a statement in response to the claims of abuse by the Humane Society of the US- saying in part "We've reviewed documented employee actions alleging abuse and listened to the recent discussions questioning U.S. industry practices of sow gestation, swine tail cutting (or docking) and swine castration, and strongly dispute any allegations of abuse." They add that "housing for gestating sows, must be based on sound science while also seeking a balance with societal concerns. Seaboard Foods' integrated system uses both stalls and group pens to house gestating sows. Animal welfare experts and professional groups have found no one method for housing gestating sows that is clearly better than the other when managed properly."
CLick here for the full statement from Seaboard Farms as found on their website.
Our reporter, Jim Apel, covered the news conference with Paul Shapiro of the Humane Society of the US- and followed up in the afternoon seeking comments in person with Roy Lee Lindsey, Jr of the Oklahoma Pork Council. Click on the LISTEN BAR at the very bottom of this story to hear comments from both Shapiro and Lindsey.
The following was written by Apel after spending time with both HSUS and the Oklahoma Pork Council:
An animal rights group is taking issue with a pork producer over statements contained on its website about the care and treatment of farm animals.
In a press conference in Oklahoma City Tuesday, a spokesman for the Humane Society of the United States said his group has filed complaints with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Trade Commission.
Paul Shapiro, the senior director of farm animal protection for the HSUS, says a document on the Seaboard Foods website makes false and misleading assertions regarding its treatment of hogs at its facility in Goodwell, Oklahoma.
Shapiro showed a video of sows housed in gestation crates and of piglets being castrated which was recorded by an undercover humane society activist who worked at the facility.
He contends that the use of gestation crates by Seaboard is at variance with statements on the company's website that it treats its animals in a humane fashion.
"Getting rid of gestation crates is one of the most important reforms that can occur within the entire agribusiness industry and certainly the most important reform within the pork industry today," Shapiro said.
Shapiro, however, admitted that the use of gestation crates industry-wide is the norm.
Shapiro sought to downplay the use of video obtained surreptitiously by humane society employees who then obtained employment at Seaboard.
"Our primary concern is to shine a bright light on a very dark world that few people ever get to witness," he said.
"Our real primary concern is to document what would be happening whether we're there or not and to bring that footage to the public so they can see and judge with their own eyes and their own hearts how those animals ought to be treated."
Shapiro was asked if the HSUS had taken its concerns to Seaboard and other producers.
The HSUS is a shareholder of Seaboard, he said, and they had addressed the issue at shareholder meetings. It was not until today, however, that he said they provided a copy of their legal complaints to the company.
Roy Lee Lindsey, Jr., the executive director of the Oklahoma Pork Council said his organization has never been contacted by the humane society regarding the practices of pork producers in Oklahoma.
He said his group would welcome contact with the society about their views.
"We think it's much more appropriate for folks if you've got a concern about what we're doing to ask us and have a dialog about it than to try and misrepresent who you are and what you stand for.
"If you've got concerns, one of the things we teach all of our employees as a part of the process of working on a farm, is if you see something you think is inappropriate, let us know immediately, because we can't deal with it if you don't let us know," Lindsey said.
"We know this video was shot some time ago, and we don't know exactly when, but we know that nobody brought any of their concerns to our attention immediately," he said.
"What we saw today," Lindsey said, "was an attack by HSUS on one type of sow housing system. They think there's a better system out there. Our belief is that it's up to the producers to determine what type of system provides the best care possible for their animals.
"When you start talking about individual systems, when you talk about images in the video, most everything in that video is relatively standard practice. The use of stalls in barns that use sow stalls for housing, that's what sow stalls look like. There's nothing special about the sow stalls. When you see images that relate to care of the pigs, the castration of baby pigs, when you hear baby pigs squealing, they squeal because you picked them up. They quit when you put them down," Lindsey said.
"We think that a lot of that is kind of taken out of context when you just look at a little ten second snippet. So, we think that there's a lot there. We're happy to have a discussion about sow housing, but we kind of object to folks focusing on an isolated incident to draw attention to themselves and their belief rather than actually having a discussion."
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