Pig Out!

Posted by Matthew Liebman, ALDF Staff Attorney on March 24, 2008

As we reported earlier this month, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, East Bay Animal Advocates, and three Bay Area consumers recently dismissed their lawsuit against a cruel and inhumane pig breeding facility in Corcoran, California operated by Corcpork, Inc.  We dismissed the suit after learning that Corcpork and its parent company Hormel Foods are eliminating their breeding operation at the Corcoran facility.  

Corcpork’s breeding operation confined approximately 9,000 pigs in crates so small they could not turn around, scratch, or stretch their limbs. Like all factory farm breeding programs, Corcpork’s operation in essence commandeered female pigs’ reproductive systems, exploiting their maternal biology to produce an endless supply of piglets whose bodies were then fattened, slaughtered, and butchered for pork. Each one of these female breeding pigs was trapped in a cycle of reproduction, placed in one cramped stall after another. While she was pregnant, Corcpork confined her in a gestation crate like these ones, which are only two feet wide (less than half the length of the desk on which I’m typing). She was kept in that cramped pen for almost four months, until she gave birth. Afterwards, Corcpork moved her into a farrowing crate like this one, which was only slightly larger than the gestation crate from which she had been removed. In the farrowing crate, she was immobilized in a way that prevented her piglets from having any access to their mother aside from their ability to nurse. Once the piglets were weaned, Corcpork had her re-impregnated, then put her right back in the gestation crate to start over again. This cycle continued until she was worn out, at which point she was shipped off for slaughter.   

This disgraceful appropriation of maternity for profit will thankfully come to an end at the Corcoran facility. Corcpork has stated, in a binding legal document, that it will end "its breeding operations entirely and [will] not, therefore, house breeding sows in gestation stalls… The purpose of this change is to eliminate breeding operations at the Corcoran [factory] farm, and the breeding operations that previously existed at the Corcoran [factory] farm have not been relocated to another operation."

Corcpork’s announcement is more evidence that the tide is turning against exploitative animal agriculture. Voters in Florida and Arizona have already rejected the cruelty inherent in gestation crates, and California voters will get the opportunity to do so this November. The Oregon legislature has banned gestation crates, and Colorado lawmakers are looking at doing the same. Smithfield Foods and Maple Leaf Foods, the largest pork producers in the United States and Canada, respectively, have committed to phasing out gestation crates.

Corcpork and Clougherty’s parent company is Hormel Foods, one of the largest pork producers in North America. When Hormel acquired Clougherty in 2004, it more than doubled the number of sows it uses in its operations. On its website, Hormel claims, "We take our zero tolerance policy for the inhumane treatment of animals very seriously." If that’s true, Hormel should follow Smithfield and Maple Leaf’s lead and ban cruel gestation and farrowing crates in its breeding operations throughout the country, not just in California.  

Of course, even in the absence of cruel intensive confinement, animals raised for food suffer immensely, be it through husbandry, transportation, or slaughter. The best thing each of us can do to respect and protect animals is to refuse to dine on their bodies.