Megan Cross, Global Animal
The world’s second largest fast food company, Wendy’s, is making plans to end the use of sow gestation crates. Gestation crates are tiny crates, barely bigger than a pig, that confine pregnant sows for most of their lives. Wendy’s is following the more animal friendly trend set by the largest fast food chain, McDonald’s, and other huge pork producers like Hormel, Smithfield, BAMCO and Compass Group. But can they be trusted?
It’s unclear what these corporate giants plan to use instead of the cruel confining crates, but it’s important not to give these companies too much undue credit. Before we know it, we might succumb to fancy wording like free-range chicken nuggets, the grass-fed Big Mac, and introducing the gestation crate-less McRib. Ending the use of gestation crates must mean exactly that, and not continuing the same grotesque behavior and calling it something else.
Remember when battery poultry farms were exposed and free-range or cage-free farming was introduced? Nothing really changed. Free-range laying hens, used for eggs, and broiler chickens, used for meat, are still overcrowded in sheds, but simply have “access” to an outside area. A small door leading to a small enclosure that can’t accommodate many chickens is what egg giants are calling free-range. None of these so-called changes have had an effect on the 250 million male chicks killed each year born to free-range hens.
No doubt that ending the use of gestation crates is well over-due and a step in the right direction, but it isn’t enough. So many other problems exist in pork production. Consider newborn piglets; soon after birth the baby pigs are processed, or more accurately mutilated. First, the navel cord is treated with iodine. Their eye teeth, ears and tails are clipped, and an iron injection is given in the neck. Finally, the piglet is castrated. All of this is done without anesthesia.
The reason for castration? According to FAO.org, “Castrated pigs are quieter and easier to handle. Castrating the pig makes it put on more fat and the meat does not have a strong piggy smell.” What should pigs smell like? Roses?
We need to move away from “bigger, faster, cheaper” food production. What we should focus on is “local, sustainable, and humane.” We are sick of the overuse of antibiotics, gestation crates and all the horrors of factory farming. If companies are incorporating real change, we’re all for it. If this is just more supermarket pastoral, we’ll be watching and encourage our readers to do the same.