Video puts pressure on grocers about pork practices

June 29, 2011 6:54:23 PM PDT
Animal rights activists are stepping up the pressure on Safeway and Costco, one day after the I-Team first showed undercover video at a farm that supplies pork to the retailers.

The activists want Safeway and Costco to push their pork suppliers to make life better for pigs, before they go to slaughter. The industry is doing damage control right now, in light of the disturbing video taken by an undercover activist.

Mercy for Animals held news conferences in three cities Wednesday to play the hidden camera video the I-Team first showed on Tuesday, and make the case against gestation crates -- the widely-used, narrow cages that confine sows for most of their lives at factory farms.

"Animals with legs should have room to walk, run and exercise," Mercy for Animals spokesperson Eddie Garza said.

California voters passed a ban on gestation crates that will take effect in four years, but nothing will prevent retailers from purchasing pork from out of state where gestation crates are still used.

To push for change in other states, an undercover activist took video over the past two months at Iowa Select Farms, which supplies pork to Safeway, Costco and other big grocery chains across the country.

"The sows need more room, we all agree with that," Costco Quality Assurance Vice President Craig Wilson said.

After seeing the video, Wilson told the I-Team the industry agrees they have to move away from gestation crates.

"We support those things and we're continuing to work with our vendors to make this gestation crate issue better, make it better for the animal, we're going to get better quality pork, it's better for everybody and the industry gets it," Wilson said.

Safeway issued a statement that reads in part, "We continue to pursue our goal of increasing the amount of pork, as supplies become available, from North American suppliers that are phasing out the use of gestation crates."

When asked by the I-Team if his group was satisfied with the response from Safeway, Garza said, "We want an agreement, we want a written agreement that they will stop purchasing gestation crate pork."

Garza added that they wanted to see that happen by 2017.

The world's largest meat processor, which slaughters pigs from Iowa Select Farms and sells them to Safeway and Costco under the Swift brand, has stopped accepting pigs from the one farm where the activist says she saw abuse including sows badly in need of medical attention and piglets, just days old, being thrown by workers.

Activist: "We were afraid that if we, like, were throwing them it would, like, mess them up."

Employee: "Oh no, they're fine. Pigs are, piglets are very bouncy I guess you could say."

Iowa Select Farms gave reporters a tour of the farm in Kamrar, Iowa Wednesday. They have launched their own investigation.

"We have policies in place of animal handling and well being and our employees trained and we feel like we have a very good program," Iowa Select Farms veterinarian Howard Hill said.

However, Hill admitted to being shocked to see his workers throwing piglets.

Last year, 109 million pigs were slaughtered across the country -- the majority of them came from farms using gestation crates. The activists have a long way to go.


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