Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Missouri Pork Producers Should Drop Inhumane Practice

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Missouri Pork Producers Should Drop Inhumane Practice

Article excerpt

Missouri farmers have a rich history of innovation, and the state Capitol's dome is ornamented with a statue of Ceres, goddess of agriculture. Farming traditions run deep. But as we move further and further into the 21st century, some are wondering: Are Missouri's pork producers stuck in a bygone era, lagging behind those in other states?

In Missouri's pork industry, pregnant breeding pigs are often confined day and night for four long months in gestation crates: tiny cages roughly the same size as the animals' bodies, designed to prevent them from even turning around. The pigs are subsequently transferred into another crate to give birth, are then re- impregnated and put back into a gestation crate. This inhumane cycle repeats, pregnancy after pregnancy, for their entire lives; it adds up to years of immobilization.

The animals social, intelligent creatures suffer immensely. They develop pressure sores from remaining in the same positions for so long. Their muscles atrophy. Many even go insane from the boredom, repeatedly biting the bars of their cell and exhibiting clinical depression and learned helplessness.

This shockingly inhumane system was designed in the 1960s, and its use today reminds us that the Dark Ages don't always just refer to the past. Fortunately, many pork producers like Smithfield and Cargill are moving into the 21st century by abandoning this archaic practice. Sadly, some major producers in Missouri, like the St. Joseph-based Triumph Foods, seem stuck in the mud.

The movement by Triumph's competitors comes with good reason: The biggest pork buyers from McDonald's and Burger King to Safeway and Costco have announced their plans to eliminate gestation crates from their supply chains. They're urging their pork suppliers to switch to group sow housing an efficient, 21st century higher- welfare production system that's already successfully used for about a fifth of the nation's breeding sows. …

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