Animal Legal Defense Fund Sues Cal Expo and University of California for Mistreating Pigs at State Fair

Posted on July 18, 2013

For immediate release:

Lisa Franzetta, Animal Legal Defense Fund
Megan Backus, Animal Legal Defense Fund

Illegal Confinement of Farrowing Pigs without Adequate Exercise Triggers Lawsuit

farrowing-crate-article-image2SACRAMENTO—Today, the Bay Area-based national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund filed a lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court against the California State Exposition and Fairs (Cal Expo) and the University of California Board of Regents for illegally confining pregnant and nursing pigs in the Livestock Nursery Exhibit at the California State Fair. Filed on behalf of state taxpayers, including pregnant and nursing mothers, the lawsuit contends that pregnant, birthing, and nursing pigs are displayed in body-gripping “farrowing crates” for three weeks every year, where they are unable to walk, turn around, or stand comfortably, in violation of California’s state anti-cruelty laws. The exhibition is held at the Sacramento Fairgrounds in collaboration between Cal Expo, a state agency, and the University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, which receives millions of taxpayer dollars annually. The fair runs from July 12-28, 2013.

California’s anti-cruelty laws protect a wide range of animals, including farmed animals. These laws, particularly California Penal Code sections 597(a) and 597t, mandate adequate exercise for confined animals and prohibit their needless suffering. ALDF’s lawsuit asserts that mother pigs are purposefully transported in the final days of pregnancy so that they will give birth while on display at the State Fair. The pigs are immediately placed in farrowing crates upon arrival at the fair, up to a mere five feet from spectators, which causes undue stress on mothers whose instinct is to isolate while nursing.

According to the lawsuit, humane alternatives to the intense confinement of farrowing sows are readily available, like the ones utilized at the Alameda County Fair, which allow pigs to give birth off-site, and keep the pigs in open pens that permit exercise, nest building, and comfort. Before becoming CEO of Cal Expo, Rick Pickering used these alternatives at the Alameda County Fair. ALDF is asking the court to enforce state law, which would effectively bar the transport of pigs during the final two weeks of their pregnancy and mandate the provision of adequate exercise for the confined pigs.

“Californians can be proud of our intent to protect the health and well-being of farmed animals,” said Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “The State Fair should be a celebration of what is best about California—but the intense confinement of pregnant and nursing pigs does not reflect our laws or the values of our citizens.”

Copies of the lawsuit are available by request. The Animal Legal Defense Fund was founded in 1979 with the unique mission of protecting the lives and advancing the interests of animals through the legal system. For more information, please visit

53 thoughts on “Animal Legal Defense Fund Sues Cal Expo and University of California for Mistreating Pigs at State Fair

  1. Janet Weeks says:

    They should also be sued for chopping off this miserable animal’s tail, undoubtedly done without painkillers.

  2. Kim Sturla says:

    Congratulations ALDF! It is about time we enforce our state anti cruelty laws to protect farmed animals. A big thank you to your legal team.

  3. please send me a copy of the lawsuit.

  4. Sue says:

    Shameful way to treat animals. Makes me sick to my stomach.

  5. Wendy says:

    Thank you for doing this!

  6. got it. thank you for the lawsuit.

  7. Joanne says:

    This is wrong, no gray area here. What an awful way for an animal to have to exist. Shame on them. Thank you for caring and helping make the world a better place.

  8. Missy says:

    I still cant believe that there arent stringent laws to protect all animals! Its heartbreaking!

  9. Deborah Kelley says:

    Pigs & all animals deserve better than that torture of not being able to turn or move around at all-that is a form of barbaric torture

  10. Sara K. Bakker says:


  11. Patricia Folman says:

    It is time to sue the USDA and the FDA

  12. Gina Cerrato says:

    This is awful and should be stopped!

  13. Renee Mendola says:

    thank you for filing suit! Hopefully this practice will be outlawed in all 50 states soon!

  14. Casey says:

    How can I donate to this cause? please tell me–I am so disgusted–Thank you dearly–God bless what you all do

  15. Mary Rapp says:

    That is why my donations go to you!! Thank you

  16. Carla morejon says:

    Stop animal abuse please!!!!

  17. Lindsay says:

    Thank you, ALDF! These beautiful, intelligent, loving sentient beings deserve much better.

  18. Please give the animals more than the minimal amount of space. Keeping them confined in crates is very cruel and causes much unneeded suffering.
    Some of these animals have babies and they are very stressed by the tight confinement and spectators! Please be humane to the animals!

  19. Debbie Freie says:

    This is not acceptable treatment of any animal. They cannot get exercise or even turn around. No animal should be treated in this cruel and inhumane way.The cages are much too small . The treatment of these pigs is barbaric and mean. They deserve better than these dysfunctional cages.

  20. laura says:

    What tragedy humans have provide for kind living breathing thinking thoughtful animals. How do these people live with themselves? Total disregard for life in all form certainly explains the world today. I can only hope these people suffer the same fate they so arrogantly disregard for the almighty dollar. DISGUSTING – humans? I dont know what that kind of soul less person is. THANK YOU PETA GO GET EM!

    1. rana says:

      Peta isn’t doing it. ALDF is. They’re not associated to one another.

  21. Sara says:

    This practice needs to stop now and should have never been legal!

  22. Gregg Wexler says:

    Terrible. Just like Gestation crates.

  23. Thank you for being the voice for these precious mommas

  24. Beth Stewart says:

    This is disgusting!

  25. Rosemary Wright says:

    What is the matter with you idiots = SHAME …

  26. PJ Lydon says:

    “The Greatness of a Nation and its moral progress can be judged by how its animals are treated”. Humans are the coldest killers but, when their light shines, they stop this kind of horrible stuff. I pray for this to stop and for every inner child wakes up to see how wrong this is.

  27. Linda says:


  28. Linda says:

    This is disgusting!!!

  29. sandra says:

    This is disgusting!!! animals deserve our total respect… stop these actions of cruelty!!!!

  30. Stacie says:

    Really??? What are we teaching children? This is NOT acceptable at all. These people need to be put in these “tombs”. And see how they feel……. FOR 3 WEEKS!!!!!!

  31. Dave Bumer says:


  32. Karen says:

    Minnesota state fair does same thing in the animal birth center

  33. Kerry Person says:

    This is absolutely barbaric and extremely inhumane,I’m shocked this is out in plain view and it’s tolerated…very cruel!

  34. Clare says:

    This is disgusting and shameful that intelligent human beings think this is an ok way to treat animals! What is wrong with our society today…where is our compassion?

  35. Marty says:

    I say swarm the fair grounds and set them all free. They couldn’t stop a few hundred people.

  36. LeAnna Farmer says:

    God bless you for doing this.

  37. Erin says:

    This is barbaric and disgusting! What an insult to ANY animal!

  38. Leslie Serbousek says:

    Thank you for bringing about this legislation. I recently visited the state fair and while I think it is a good thing for people to see how cute, intelligent, and lovable farm animals are-in order to promote compassion-the pigs on display sicken me. A sow was obviously suffering some sort of psychological stress or boredom as she stood up in a crate and attempted to mouth the entrance of the crate repeatedly as her babies attempted to nurse from her, practically on tip toes handing from her teats. One piglet went under as she shifted her foot and she accidentally stepped on her baby and pinned him to the floor. As soon as the piglet screamed in pain and surprise, the mother began panting in distress (or from the extreme heat) and moved her foot from her infant trying to find footing apart from her mass of babies so as not to hurt them. It was so sad. The mothers cannot do anything, they cannot move, stretch, play, explore, cover themselves in cooling mud, or anything pigs should be able to do. Pigs are as smart as dogs and to confine an intelligent being in such a way is horrendous to me. It is not just dangerous to the pigs, but also very dangerous to the piglets who can be accidentally crushed, killed, or severely injured. Then the sow has to deal with even more distress, and a broken heart grieving over her lost babies-all unnecessary. Put them in a large pen with straw like they have the cows and goats. They have the pens already there-it would not be an issue to promote such change.

  39. Jonny Thompson says:

    Americans – and all Westerners – who complain about animal abuse in other countries around the world need to look at what’s going on in their own countries and do something about stopping it.

  40. Bev ondick says:

    Fairs are constantly using animals to draw in crowds. It needs to be stopped. These pigs are undergoing so much stress with birthing, on top of that to have people in their faces, harassing them is torture! Thanks ALDF for stepping in to get this stopped.

  41. Ken Snap says:

    What a total discrace!! And they try to justify torturing animals!!!

  42. Cindy King says:

    They should be stopped!! This is pathetic!! Heartless

  43. Ashley Passino says:

    I am so happy ALDF stepped in to stop this. Alot of pig farms use these type of crates. An they keep the Sows pregnant, too. More $ an quicker profit if they can keep churning out babies. Much like a puppy mill. The crates are barbaric an need to be outlawed.

  44. Sandra Charbonneau says:

    Right on ALDF, you guys Rock!!

  45. Inna Javakhadze says:

    The animals already have more than enough beeng senteneced to horrible death by our mostly non-vegetarian society. As homo sapience we, at least, should provide them with real care, not this kind of life which is just a torture. I’m not shouting ‘Go vegan!’ but please, we should stand against this cruelty.

  46. Shell says:

    First, a huge “thumbs up” to Inna J. you got it perfectly right!

    An online Petition should be written so that people with compassion can Sign & Share with Everyone!

    We must let them know we are appalled by what is being done to these intelligent yet, horribly mistreated creatures.

    There is NO excuse for this abuse. And the Horses are next on the list. Victimizing, excuse me…Murders that are being permitted by law are to begin in August in 3 States so far.

  47. rana says:

    You want it to stop? STOP EATING MEAT! It’s not like you have to do so, as there are zillions of alternatives, now. Additionally, it’s UNHEALTHY FOR ANY OF US TO EAT THE STUFF! It’s the only way to get them to stop treating these animals this way. These animals are kept in crates a loy longer than JUST at the fair. They use them all over the country, on the farms too. Take a look at some of the videos on youtube to set the way the pigs are treated during slaughter and before. Most of their lives are spent in these crates. :( Calves also have similar lives, as do many cows and chickens. Stop eating meat, and watch the magic begin. It’s the only way things for these animals will change. Additionally, it’s 100 thousand times healthier for all of you. Many diseases are caused by chicken, pork, steak, hamburger, hotdogs, etc. Stop eating it and they disappear as fast as they showed up. Try it, you might be surprised.

    1. Laurie says:

      Totally Agree!!!! It is NOT vegans that are a drain on the health care system!!! It is the animal eaters!! These factory farms are owned by mega-rich corporations who consider themselves GODS now due to free trade and continue to abuse and torture for the sake of their increased profit margins. They have no souls nor morality and their favorite saying is “it’s nothing personal, it’s business”!! As if that is acceptable! People in poor countries die from starvation, people in rich countries die from over-eating. Stop being one-stop shoppers in these mega-stores because their claims of low prices really mean, they will abuse, torture and kill for the sake of getting the money from your wallet into theirs!!!!

  48. Sophia Johnston says:

    I just read about this in the Sacramento Bee. I applaud you for doing this. The treatment of the pigs at the State Fair has bothered me since I was in junior high school(in 40s now). I am going to make a donation. THANK YOU!

  49. Min says:

    i am not a 100% vegetarian yet, but i will be there.

  50. Bryan Dunlap says:

    If you did research on the purpose of the farrowing crate you would see that it servse as a protective device in preventing the baby pigs from getting stepped on and laid on. The mortality rate of baby pigs in an open enviornment will go up to 50% due to getting crushed setpped on or diseases. This devise protects them for the first 2 weeks of their most vonerable life. By taking it way your killing more. In no way is this wrong. I stand behind farrowing crates 100%.

  51. Kimberly Bell says:

    I visited the livestock exhibit this year at the CA State Fair. I came upon a lady sloshing green aloe all over a pig. The pig has burn marks across its back and the pig was red, not pink. The marks were cracked and oozing. I asked what happened and was told it got sunburned while they were walking around showing it to the crowd. There were two that were sunburned badly. I asked why they didn’t put sunscreen on them and I got no response. I reported this to the PETA booth at the fair. It was horrible!

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