November 16, 2011
The HSUS Sends Legal Demand for Smithfield Records Concerning Cruel Confinement of Pigs
McDonald’s pork supplier served request in wake of “McFib” scandal.
Just two weeks after filing a complaint with the Securities and Exchange Commission regarding Smithfield Foods’ misleading claims about animal welfare, The Humane Society of the United States filed legal notice with Smithfield – a major pork supplier for McDonald’s — that it will exercise its right as a corporate shareholder to inspect company records regarding Smithfield’s broken promise to stop confining sows in gestation crates on company-owned farms by 2017.
The vast majority of Smithfield’s breeding sows—who are repeatedly impregnated to produce litter after litter of pigs for use in McRibs and other pork products—are confined in gestation crates, metal cages that virtually immobilize the animals for nearly their entire lives.
In 2007, Smithfield pledged to end its use of gestation crates at company-owned facilities within ten years, but in 2009, citing economic reasons, the company withdrew its timeline. Smithfield CEO C. Larry Pope assured The HSUS that a timeline would be reinstated once there was a recovery. However, despite five consecutive quarters of record growth, Smithfield has refused to institute a deadline or offer a reason for its failure to live up to its commitments.
“Smithfield has refused to answer basic questions about when it will finally get rid of gestation crates,” said Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation at The HSUS. “If Smithfield is truly committed to ending its practice of locking pigs in cramped cages that prevent them from even turning around for months on end, it should produce the records that prove it.”
The HSUS has repeatedly asked Smithfield to verify its conversion numbers and reveal how the figures were calculated, but Smithfield has to date refused to provide any substantiating data despite making numerous recent public statements extolling its own transparency. Consequently, The HSUS is exercising its right as a shareholder to inspect the corporate records and review the data directly.
A PDF of the legal notice can be accessed here.
- McDonald’s and Smithfield’s own animal welfare advisor, Dr. Temple Grandin, has stated that gestation crates “are a real problem” and “have to go.”
- A 2001 Washington Post article noted: “Some members of [McDonald’s animal welfare] panel identified gestation crates as a particularly inhumane practice ...” In the article, a McDonald’s executive refers to the issue as being “towards the top of our agenda.” However, a decade later, McDonald’s still purchases from pork producers that use these cruel crates.
- 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.
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