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Walmart pork supplier cruel and 'filthy,' alleges new undercover video

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Workers purposely kill piglets by bashing their heads on concrete floors. Then they leave them to slowly die, still kicking and struggling in a pile with others.

Piglets’ testicles and tails are removed with “dull clippers” and no painkillers.

“Sensitive and intelligent” pregnant and nursing female pigs spend almost their entire lives in narrow, poorly-cleaned, and fly-infested metal cages where they can barely move.

Open wounds and pressure sores afflict many of the animals because of chafing contact with the unyielding cage bars and the concrete floors.

Others, suffering from “open, bleeding wounds and infections” as well as painful and fatal ailments such as prolapsed and bleeding uteruses, receive no veterinary care.

Constant chewing on the metal cage bars and other repetitive behaviors are the animals’ only activity.

Such are the images that animal protection group Mercy for Animals (MFA) alleges it captured during its "Crated Cruelty" undercover video investigation of Christensen Farms, one of megastore Walmart’s pork suppliers.

Former “The Price is Right” host and long-time animal advocate Bob Barker narrates the video: “Dead and dying piglets are a common sight at this Walmart pork supplier… This sow continually bangs her head against the bars of her cage in frustration… “

‘Walmart supports animal abuse’

“Are your Walmart purchases funding animal abuse?” asks Mercy for Animals Executive Director Nathan Runkle in a media release about the investigation. “If you’re buying pork, the answer is yes.”

Runkle said that yesterday Mercy for Animals conducted “eleventh-hour, behind-the-scenes discussions with both Costco Wholesale, the second-largest retailer in the United States, and Sears Holdings Corporation's subsidiary Kmart, the third-largest discount store in the world,” after which those companies announced that “they would work to eliminate gestation crates from their pork supply chains.”

And while other food giants such as McDonald’s and Kroger have recently made similar vows, Runkle said that “Walmart continues to support blatant animal abuse.”

Describing gestation crates, the narrow cages used to confine pregnant sows, as “perhaps the cruelest form of institutionalized animal abuse in existence,” Runkle pointed out that “they are so inhumane they have been banned in nine U.S. states, as well as in the entire European Union.”

[Note from Animal Policy Examiner: Many of those legislated bans are in the form of gradual phase-outs still in progress.]

Legal and standard practice to remove testicles and tails with no painkillers

Some of the practices shown in the video, such as the castration and tail-docking of baby pigs without anesthetic, are legal and standard practice.

Iowa Pork Producers Association Communications Director Ron Birkenholz told Animal Policy Examiner (APE) in a 2011 interview that “The tail docking and the castration—the veterinarians tell us that it is OK to do that way [with no painkillers]. And they’ve said that for years and until they tell us differently that’s the way it’ll be done.”

Dr. Gail Golab of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) said the following in a 2011 interview with APE:

“APE: Is castration of piglets with no painkillers approved by the AVMA?

“GOLAB: The AVMA recommends the use of procedures and practices that reduce or eliminate pain, including the use of approved or AMDUCA-permissible clinically effective medications whenever possible. The AVMA encourages development and implementation of practical analgesic and anesthetic protocols for, and alternatives to, swine castration."

“Good pain management is not limited to administration of drugs. It also includes attention to the technique and timing (how old the animal is) of surgical procedures, as well as consideration of handling stress (the negatives of the latter can compete with the benefits obtained by administration of anesthetics and analgesics).”

Currently, the AVMA website gives the following information about piglet castration:

“The Practice

Castration of piglets raised for meat is carried out prior to weaning by cutting the skin of the scrotum, severing the seminal ducts and removing the testes. The surgery is typically performed without anesthesia or analgesia.

“Benefits

Avoiding boar taint—The flesh of intact boars contains variable amounts of compounds such as skatole and androstenone which can give their meat an unpleasant smell and taste…

“Increased docility—Barrows exhibit less sexual and aggressive behavior making them easier to handle and less likely to injure or intimidate each other in group pens.

“Detriments

Pain—Castration involves cutting and manipulating innervated tissues… and if anesthesia is not provided it will be painful… as reflected by elevated blood cortisol concentrations… high-pitched squealing… and pain-indicative behaviors, such as trembling and lying alone… Some behavioral indicators of pain may persist for up to five days.

“Long Term Risks

It has been suggested that barrows [castrated pigs] suffer from suppressed immunity… and exhibit higher incidences of inflammation, and pneumonia and other diseases.”

Photo credit: Mercy for Animals

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