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March 20, 2012

SEC Complaint Filed Over Seaboard’s False Animal Welfare Claims and Violations of Shareholders’ Rights

The Humane Society of the United States filed a legal complaint with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over violations of federal securities law by Merriam, Kan.-based Seaboard Corporation, the parent company of the third-largest U.S. pork producer.

The complaint was submitted after Seaboard responded to The HSUS' shareholder resolution with false claims and also failed to provide advance notice about its response, as required by SEC regulations.

In September, The HSUS – which is a Seaboard shareholder – filed a shareholder proposal urging the company to progress away from confining its breeding sows in gestation crates: tiny cages that virtually immobilize pigs for nearly their entire lives. Leading animal welfare experts, including Seaboard Foods' advisor Dr. Temple Grandin, have called on the pork industry to move away from these cramped cages.

Despite the SEC regulations' requirement that Seaboard give advance notice to The HSUS about its response to the shareholder proposal, Seaboard published an opposition to it in its Proxy Statement without advance notice. That response included false claims of “cruelty-free” animal care practices. Both the lack of advance notice and the deceptive opposition statement are violations of federal securities laws and rules.  Because of the lack of notice of this deceptive opposition statement Seaboard deprived The HSUS of the opportunity to ensure that only truthful information related to its proposal is presented to shareholders.

“Seaboard seems willing to do almost anything, including violating U.S. securities law, to keep consumers in the dark about its cruel confinement of animals,” says Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president of animal protection litigation and investigations for The HSUS. “Seaboard should spend more time thinking about whether consumers really want pigs crammed into tiny gestation crates, and less time trying to cram false and misleading rhetoric into a shareholder statement.”

This legal challenge represents the third in a series of complaints, which began in January, against Seaboard Foods by The HSUS over violations of federal securities law.

The complaints follow The HSUS' undercover investigation of a Seaboard pig breeding facility in Oklahoma which found animals suffering in gestation crates, castrations and tail docking without pain killers, and numerous other instances of animal mistreatment by employees.

A full copy of The HSUS' legal complaint is available here.

Timeline of recent HSUS actions against Seaboard Foods:

  • September 2011: The HSUS files shareholder proposal urging Seaboard to end its use of gestation crates.  
  • January 2012: The HSUS releases undercover exposé of graphic footage showing how Seaboard's pigs suffer in gestation crates. The HSUS also files its first complaints with the SEC and Federal Trade Commission charging that Seaboard illegally makes false and misleading statements about animal welfare.
  • February 2012: The HSUS files second complaints with the SEC and FTC regarding Seaboard’s continued use of false and misleading statements.
  • March 2012: The HSUS files a third SEC complaint after Seaboard fails to comply with federal securities law pertaining to shareholder rights.

Media Contact:

Anna West, awest@humanesociety.org, 301-258-1518

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