Hormel, Smithfield, & McDonald’s agree to end keeping pregnant pigs immobilized in stalls

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  March 2012:

Hormel,  Smithfield,  & McDonald’s agree to end keeping pregnant pigs immobilized in stalls

AUSTIN,  Minnesota–Hormel Foods,  producers of the pork product Spam since 1937,  on February 2,  2012 followed Smithfield Foods in pledging to phase out immobilizing pregnant sows in gestation stalls by 2017.

The Hormel and Smithfield pledges appeared to be strategic positioning in advance of a February 13,  2012 announcement by McDonald’s Corporation senior vice president Dan Gorsky that “McDonald’s wants to see the end of sow confinement in gestation stalls in our supply chain.  We are beginning an assessment with our U.S. suppliers to determine how to build on the work already underway to reach that goal,”  Gorsky said.  “In May,  after receiving our suppliers’ plans, we’ll share results from the assessment and our next steps.”

Gorsky’s announcement followed nearly 20 years of negotiation with McDonald’s by a succession of animal advocacy organizations, begun by Animal Rights International founder Henry Spira,  and continued by PETA after Spira’s death in 1998,  before HSUS became involved.

Rival fast food chain Burger King agreed in 2007 to stop buying pork from producers who use gestation stalls.
The McDonald’s pledge may have been hastened by the commitment of two of the largest pig producers to move away from gestation stalls.  This will help to ensure that the supply of pigs raised without use of sow stalls will be adequate to the demand, within McDonald’s price range.

“The Humane Society of the U.S. had been pressuring Hormel to make such a commitment,  which was made in response to an HSUS spokesperson pressing the issue at Hormel’s shareholder meeting,” said an HSUS media statement.  HSUS was able to attend the shareholder meeting after purchasing 100 shares of Hormel stock in September 2010.  The HSUS statement mentioned that “Hormel has 54,000 breeding pigs at three facilities in Arizona,  Colorado,  and Wyoming.  Arizona and Colorado have both passed laws to ban gestation crates by the end of 2012 and 2017,  respectively.”

Founded in 1891,  Hormel was in 1959 honored by the American Humane Association for becoming the first slaughtering company to comply with the provisions of the Humane Slaughter Act,  passed by Congress in 1958.  Hormel introduced carbon dioxide stunning of pigs in 1953,  replacing the former practice of shackling and hoisting conscious pigs to be bled,  and replaced hammer stunning of cattle with use of a captive bolt gun in 1957.  Both carbon dioxide pig stunning and use of captive bolt guns are now standard slaughter methods.

Smithfield Foods,  the largest U.S. pig producer,  on December 8,  2011 recommitted to phasing out gestation crates by 2017,  35 days after HSUS filed a lawsuit with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission alleging that Smithfield had illegally disseminated “unlawfully false or misleading representations about the animal welfare and environmental practices of its wholly owned subsidiary Murphy-Brown, LLC.”

The HSUS lawsuit noted that Smithfield originally pledged to phase out gestation stalls by 2017 in January 2007,   but backtracked in 2009.

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