Seaboard Foods, the No. 3 U.S. pork producer based in Kansas, and supplier to Walmart, was forced to drop its claim of using “The most humane practices throughout the animal’s life.”
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission mainly because of Seaboard’s confinement of breeding pigs in small gestation crates.
HSUS noted it was pleased that Seaboard had changed its “misleading online advertising” but would have preferred it change “its actual practices.”
Last year, the Humane Society filed complaints with both the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and Federal Trade Commission regarding false and misleading statements made by Seaboard Foods in response to an undercover video of one of the company’s Oklahoma pig breeding facilities.
The investigation documented breeding sows confined in tight gestation crates, barely larger than the animals’ own bodies, unable to even turn around.
The investigation video also showed workers hitting animals, duct-taping their splayed legs to their bodies and jabbing their eyes.
The Humane Society claimed that Seaboard made false and misleading statements about animal welfare to shareholders, potential investors and the public, including that the company uses the “most humane practices.”
The Humane Society added that in Seaboard’s news release following the investigation, the company defended its permanent immobilization of pigs in gestation crates as standard “U.S. industry practices,” despite bogus claims in other public materials that exceeding industry standards is “what separates Seaboard from other companies.”
“There’s simply no rational way the company can profess on the one hand to stand out from competitors on animal welfare and then revert to a claim of ‘industry standard practices’ when defending its mistreatment of animals,” says Jonathan Lovvorn, chief counsel and senior vice president of animal protection litigation for The HSUS.
“Locking animals in gestation crates is simply indefensible, as is misleading investors and the public about that abuse.”
Studies indicate that consumers prefer breeding pigs to be housed in groups rather than individual crates, and the economic analysis reflected in the study by Iowa State University, also documented that there are even lower production costs for pork suppliers who use group housing.
Major pork producers like Smithfield Foods and Hormel have agreed to stop using gestation crates at their company-owned breeding operations by 2017, and Cargill is already 50-percent gestation crate-free.
Dozens of companies, including McDonald’s, Burger King, Costco and Oscar Mayer, are phasing out buying from producers who use the crates.