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May 17, 2012

The HSUS Files SEC Complaint Over Tyson Foods’ Deceptive Animal Welfare Claims

Meat Industry Giant Responds to HSUS Undercover Investigation by Making Unlawfully Deceptive Claims About Care of Pigs in Its Supply Chain

The Humane Society of the United States filed a legal complaint with the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission asserting that Tyson Foods, Inc., the world’s second-largest meat producer, is making deceptive public statements related to animal well-being. The complaint charges that Tyson violated federal securities law with its widely-distributed statements about its policies and practices relating to animal care. Tyson’s statements were made in response to an HSUS undercover investigation at Wyoming Premium Farms, a former supplier of pigs to a Tyson subsidiary, which was released last week.

A video from the undercover investigation at Wyoming Premium Farms revealed prolonged suffering of pigs used for breeding, including virtually immobilized animals locked inside two-foot wide metal cages called gestation crates and severe abuse of mother pigs and piglets by workers.

In response to the video, Tyson posted on its website and nationally distributed a statement that deceptively describes the pork industry’s Pork Quality Assurance Plus animal welfare program. The HSUS’ complaint alleges that Tyson violates a federal securities law by making deceptive statements and by omitting important facts about the program and how the company uses it. Specifically, Tyson claims to audit its suppliers for conformance to the pork industry’s Pork Quality Assurance Plus program, which has absolutely no mandated or enforceable animal welfare standards to conform to, making meaningful audits under the program impossible.

“Tyson is trying to soothe concerned consumers by claiming to follow rigid animal welfare standards that simply do not exist,” says Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president for animal protection litigation at The HSUS. “The pork industry’s self-created, anemic quality assurance program that Tyson referenced is an empty shell intended to conceal cruel gestation crate confinement and forestall meaningful animal welfare improvements.”

The HSUS’ complaint seeks prompt SEC action to stop Tyson from deceiving consumers and shareholders through its misleading animal care representations.

 Facts:

  • PQA Plus is a producer-funded certification program that lacks any required animal care standards. Certification is achieved by nothing more than attending a single 90-minute meeting once every three years.
  • About 70 percent of breeding sows in the United States are confined in crates so small the animals can barely move for their entire lives. Extensive scientific research confirms this causes suffering.
  • PQA Plus allows the use of gestation crates.
  • A 2007 American Farm Bureau-funded poll found that about two-thirds of Americans, 64 percent, agree that gestation crates are inhumane.
  • Farm animal welfare expert Dr. Temple Grandin states that "gestation stalls have got to go."
  • This year, major food companies such as McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Safeway, Denny’s and Compass Group announced plans to eliminate gestation crates from their supply chains.
  • Pork producers Smithfield and Hormel have pledged to end the use of gestation crates at their company-owned facilities by 2017, and Cargill is already 50 percent gestation crate-free.
  • Eight U.S. states and the European Union have passed laws to ban gestation crates and Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island have bills pending that would outlaw them.

 

Media contact: Anna West, 240-751-2669, awest@humanesociety.org

 

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