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November 2, 2011

Complaint Filed with SEC Alleging Smithfield Foods Makes False Animal Welfare and Environmental Claims

Today, just 24 hours after Smithfield Foods – the world’s largest pork producer – launched its new corporate responsibility website, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has received a legal complaint from The Humane Society of the United States alleging that the company is making false and misleading claims to shareholders and consumers about its corporate responsibility practices in violation of federal securities law.

According to The HSUS’ complaint filed today, the claims — made in a video series titled Taking the Mystery out of Pork Production — falsely convey that Smithfield has higher animal welfare and environmental standards than it actually does. The complaint further alleges that the videos are deceptive in their depiction of Smithfield’s use of antibiotics in animal feed.

Federal securities law prohibits the making of any false statement of a material fact or the omission of a material fact that would prevent a statement from being misleading.

“Smithfield’s attempt to mislead its shareholders about animal welfare adds insult to the injuries inflicted daily on the animals confined in its facilities,” said Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation at The HSUS. “Smithfield cannot shirk its responsibility to stakeholders and animals by simply offering false claims about providing ‘ideal’ living conditions.”

Smithfield’s Videos

In its videos, Smithfield claims, for example, that it provides animals with “ideal” living conditions and that their animals’ “every need is met,” despite the fact that the vast majority of its breeding sows are confined in­ gestation crates — metal cages that virtually immobilize animals for nearly their entire lives. Smithfield also routinely castrates animals and cuts portions of their tails off without painkiller.

The videos, which were released just months after an HSUS undercover investigation documented severe cruelty inside a Smithfield facility in Virginia, also include false and misleading claims about an environmental certification from the International Organization of Standards and misleading claims of “organic” agriculture.

A PDF of the complete legal complaint can be accessed here.

Facts

 

  • Smithfield’s own animal welfare advisor, Dr. Temple Grandin, has stated that gestation crates “are a real problem” and “have to go.”
  • In 2007, Smithfield pledged to end its use of gestation crates at company-owned facilities by 2017. In 2009, Smithfield removed that timeline and has yet to publicly set a new one.
  • Eight states and the European Union have passed laws to phase out gestation crates. Extensive scientific research confirms that confining sows in gestation crates is detrimental to animal welfare.

 

Media Contact:

Anna West: 301-258-1518; awest@humanesociety.org

 

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