Notes from the Frontline: Campaigning for Farm Sanctuary

Farm animal confinement: Veal crates, gestation crates, and battery cages

By Dallas Ryan, Farm Sanctuary Intern

I had no idea what to expect. I was in Massachusetts, sent by Farm Sanctuary to collect signatures. The thought of going up to complete strangers and asking them for their support seemed rather nerve-wracking. Stepping outside my comfort zone and doing it anyway, however, led me to quickly realize just how rewarding campaigning and gathering signatures is, especially if done in the name of something you truly believe in.

Signature-gathering for animals

The author with a compassionate signer!

Whether it was outside the local grocery store or walking on campus, most people have had some sort of encounter with signature-gatherers. The reactions of those walking by are always mixed: Some hurriedly say no, while others ignore.

And then there are those who stop to learn more. Though signatures are our goal, I know our mere presence is making a sizable difference in the public’s awareness – even among those who walk right on by. If, just for a second, I allowed them see something they had never seen or thought twice about before, that is success. For all I know, they could have looked up our efforts online later that day and spread the word during dinner. These types of reminders are important to keep in mind, especially when one finds the job exhausting or when the number of failed attempts to reach people becomes discouraging.

The best and most reassuring reminder of all: why you’re standing there and who you’re standing up for.

For me, other Farm Sanctuary volunteers, and the many others involved in this particular campaign, it’s the animals on factory farms in Massachusetts suffering every day from cruel and inhumane confinement practices. As part of the Citizens for Farm Animal Protection – a broad coalition of non-profit organizations, farmers and businesses, community leaders, and grassroots activists – we are working to enact a ballot measure in Massachusetts that will ban three of the most cruel and inhumane confinement practices used on factory farms: veal crates, gestation crates, and battery cages.

Signature-gathering for animals

A concerned Massachusetts resident signs the petition!

All those offering their signatures and spreading the word are helping us make sure calves are no longer taken from their mothers and placed in crates designed to keep them deprived and immobilized for the remainder of their lives.

Everyone signing is helping to protect pigs, highly intelligent creatures who need a certain level of mental stimulation (like humans), from being subjected to gestation crates built only about two feet wide.

And of course, citizens’ support is also helping us ban battery cages and protect hens from being crammed, five or more hens to a single cage, with dimensions that allow each animal less space than the size of a standard piece of paper.

If this law is passed, Massachusetts will join ten other U.S. states that have already passed laws to address these kinds of inhumane practices. The opportunity to save these animals from horrible suffering makes all the hard work involved in campaigning more than worth it. At the end of the day, all I have to do is remember how many animals are depending on me to be their voice and end their suffering. And this is what has and will continue to keep me going, one signature at a time.

Thanks to the efforts of Dallas and hundreds of others, the Coalition was successful in gathering all the required signatures in the first portion of the ballot initiative process. Stay tuned for updates!

Want to intern to help farm animals? Learn about Farm Sanctuary’s internship program.

What You Need to Know about Avian Flu

By Susie Coston, National Shelter Director

Three states — Minnesota, Wisconsin and now Iowa– have proclaimed a state of emergency, with millions of commercial birds believed to be infected by avian influenza. The death count is multiplying by the day and it’s estimated we’ll see 20 million birds destroyed overall as a result of the worst bird flu outbreak to strike the U.S. since the 1980s. Here’s what you need to know about this disease.

Chickens raised for slaughter

What is avian influenza?
Avian influenza (AI), or bird flu, refers to a number of viruses that infect birds. The viruses are classified as either low pathogenicity (LPAI), which causes a relatively mild illness, or high pathogenicity (HPAI), and results in severe illness.

Beginning in December 2014, HPAI was found in ducks in the Pacific Northwest, marking the first time in years that it had been detected in the U.S. Since then, multiple HPAI strains have infected flocks of domestic birds in multiple states. Strains H5N8 and H5N1 infected flocks on the West Coast, where the disease now appears to be dying down somewhat due to hot, dry conditions. Strain H5N2 is currently raging through the Midwest and making its way east.

The CDC reports that the strains of AI currently active in the U.S. pose a very low risk to humans. Among birds, however, they are highly contagious and in most cases fatal.

Where has AI spread?


Note: Detected refers to non-commercial findings. Estimates as of May 1, 2015.

As NPR reports, Minnesota has been hit hardest, with close to 50 flocks affected, but the disease has struck many other states as well.

Wherever the virus is found, USDA and state officials kill the entire flock in order to contain the disease. The standard culling method is to fill the housing buildings with a water-based foam that suffocates the birds to death.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) designates this method as an appropriate means of “mass depopulation,” defined as “methods by which large numbers of animals must be destroyed quickly and efficiently with as much consideration given to the welfare of the animals as practicable, but where the circumstances and tasks facing those doing the depopulation are understood to be extenuating.” This endorsement tells you much less about the type of death delivered by the foam — which is undoubtedly horrid — than it does about the abysmal standards of welfare that pass as acceptable in an industry predicated on mass confinement and slaughter. By raising birds in groups of tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, or millions, producers create conditions in which humane euthanasia, or humane treatment of any sort for that matter, is impossible. The circumstances are “extenuating” by design.

In the U.S., more than 15.1 million domestic birds have been killed due to AI detections since the beginning of March 2015. Here’s a state-by-state breakdown of reported detections and cullings:

Minnesota: As of April 27, the virus has been detected in at least 46 turkey farms, and at least 2.7 million turkeys have been killed. The virus also has been detected in a facility raising chickens for meat and a laying hen facility, resulting in a total of over 500,000 chickens in Minnesota being killed. Additionally 150 turkeys belonging to a backyard flock were killed.

Iowa: There have been eight detections resulting in a total of almost 10 million deaths. At two turkey farms, a total of 61,000 turkeys were killed. At each of two egg facilities, 3.8 million hens were killed, and at another three egg facilities and a pullet farm a total of 2.3 million chickens were killed.

Wisconsin: There have been eight detections. At two egg facilities, a total of 980,000 chickens were killed. At five turkey facilities, 467,500 turkeys were killed. In a backyard flock, 40 mixed-breed chickens were killed.

South Dakota: AI was detected at six turkey farms, and 285,000 turkeys were killed.

North Dakota: AI was detected at two turkey farms. At the two facilities, 109,000 turkeys were killed. An additional 2,000 chickens also were killed at one of the facilities.

Arkansas: AI was detected at one turkey farm, where 40,000 turkeys were killed.

Missouri: AI was detected at two turkey farms, where 52,000 turkeys were killed.

Kansas: A low pathogenic strain of AI was detected in a commercial poultry facility in Kansas. The species and total number of birds affected were not released. An unknown number of ducks and chickens in a backyard flock also were killed.

California: There have been five detections including two wild ducks. At two turkey farms, 206,000 turkeys were killed (at one of these facilities, only a low-pathogenicity strain was found; nonetheless all of the facilities’ turkeys were killed). At one “broiler” chicken and duck facility, 114,000 birds were killed.

In addition to the states listed above, AI has been detected in the following states in wild migratory waterfowl, captive wild birds (such as falcons), and/or backyard flocks:

New Mexico

AI has also been found in Ontario and in British Columbia, where it was first detected in December 2014, before we were tracking the spread of the disease. The total number of birds affected at turkey and chicken facilities in British Columbia is reported to have been 250,000. In Ontario, the virus has been found in two turkey facilities and one facility raising chickens for meat with a total of 52,800 turkeys killed and 27,000 chickens killed.

Please check our Farm Animal Adoption Network (FAAN) Facebook page for updates. We continue to track new outbreaks. The disease is still spreading. This is an epidemic.

How has AI spread?
AI is spread in two ways: 1) directly from bird to bird, and 2) through contact with the manure of an infected bird. AI can be spread by equipment, vehicles, clothing, and other materials that have come into contact with the manure of infected birds. This includes, for instance, the shoes of someone who has walked by a lake where infected ducks have left droppings. (Additionally, some researchers have speculated that strong winds blowing infected debris into animal housing may have contributed to the broad reach of HPAI in Minnesota; however, biosecurity failures are still believed to be the primary cause of the Minnesota outbreak.)


The spread of the virus has been linked to wild migratory birds, especially ducks and geese. Typically asymptomatic, these birds are able to carry the disease from area to area and shed it in their droppings. In domestic birds, especially turkeys, HPAI induces a ghastly and highly lethal disease.

Why have so many birds died?
While the migrations of wild birds help account for the broad geographical reach of this epidemic, it is industrial farming practices that account for the staggering mortality. The reason 3.8 million birds fell victim to AI in a single Iowa facility is because there were 3.8 million birds in a single facility.

Keeping large numbers of animals together, especially in the intensely crowded conditions characteristic of factory farms, leaves those animals highly vulnerable to disease. (In fact, these conditions may even create breeding grounds for new strains of diseases. Learn more about factory farming and disease.)

Battery Cages

Ironically, factory farm proponents have long cited biosecurity as a justification for keeping large numbers of animals confined in buildings with no outdoor access. As we’ve seen in this epidemic, biosecurity at these facilities is failing, and the confinement practices that ostensibly enable tight biosecurity are instead dooming millions of birds to disease and culling.

What is Farm Sanctuary doing to protect its shelter birds?
When HPAI appeared in California, we took immediate action to protect the birds at our shelters in Orland and Acton. We suspended visitor access to bird areas and instituted a “no birds in, no birds out” policy at both shelters. This means, unfortunately, that we cannot perform any bird rescues involving these locations while the HPAI risk remains high.

We have isolated our shelter birds from contaminants using tight-weave shade tarps, which keep wild fowl out of our bird areas and also prevent their feces from dropping into those areas as they fly over. We have also had to close off our ponds to the birds — ponds are the areas that pose the greatest risk of infection from wild waterfowl, who often land on open water to swim and eat.

All staff members at these shelters must now don special ISO gear and use foot baths when entering any bird area, and they are advised to change into different shoes upon entering the shelter in general from the outside, as an extra precaution. Additionally, all staff members are trained to identify signs of disease, both in our resident birds and in any wild birds in the area.

New York
As yet there have been no reported cases of HPAI east of Wisconsin, but it has reportedly been found in wild birds and/or backyard flocks. That said, the disease could spread further as waterfowl continue their spring migrations. We are following the movement of the disease closely and remain in constant contact with our vets. Currently, we are working with our avian vet at Cornell to review and update our AI protocols.

The Watkins Glen shelter has a large population of chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese belonging to many distinct flocks that must be kept separate. Implementing the strict biosecurity measures necessary to protect them all from AI would be a massive effort. We want to allow the birds to have a semblance of the life they enjoy at our sanctuaries while still being safe from this disease.


We are dedicated to maintaining the strictest biosecurity at all of our shelters in the path of HPAI. These measures are crucial not only to safeguard our birds from disease but also to avoid giving the USDA any grounds for demanding that our shelter birds be culled if the epidemic continues to spread, worsen, or spread to other species.

Farmers have a strong economic incentive to protect their flocks, but for us this is personal. We know each turkey, each chicken, each duck, and each goose at our shelters as an individual with a name and a personality. They are our friends. The millions of deaths resulting from HPAI, like the billions of deaths resulting from the consumption of meat and eggs each year, are catastrophic. But HPAI also represents a catastrophe for each individual bird: the ultimate devastation of losing one’s life. To us, the cause of each bird in our care is urgent and worthy of our very best efforts.

What Can I Do to Protect My Birds from AI?
We’ll say it again: This is an epidemic. Proper biosecurity is crucial for the protection of your own backyard flock and the birds in your area. If you care for any birds such as turkeys, chickens, ducks, or geese, please stay updated on the spread of the disease and be prepared to implement quarantine measures if it nears your area. You can check our FAAN Facebook page for the latest on AI outbreaks.

PreventativeMeasures_AI_IG_blog-01 (1)

Read more on AI from the USDA.

* According to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), birds infected with AI may exhibit one or more of the following symptoms:

  • sudden death without clinical signs
  • lack of energy and appetite
  • decreased egg production
  • soft-shelled or misshapen eggs
  • swelling of the head, eyelids, comb, wattles, and hocks
  • purple discoloration of wattles, combs, and legs
  • nasal discharge
  • coughing and sneezing
  • lack of coordination
  • diarrhea

How can I help?

Donate now-blogWe’ve already incurred costs from securing our California shelters against avian influenza. If the disease nears our New York Shelter, the expense of protecting our birds there will be much greater. With your help, we can keep them safe. Please donate now.

Humane Meat: A Contradiction in Terms

By Bruce Friedrich, Director of Policy and Advocacy

People have become increasingly aware that virtually all of the 9 billion land animals slaughtered in the United States each year for their meat are terribly mistreated. In fact, routine farming practices are so abusive that they would warrant felony animal cruelty charges if they were done to cats or dogs.


As a result, more and more compassionate people have joined the ranks of those who choose to eat a vegan diet. Some, however, have looked instead to meat from animals treated less badly, which is often stamped with a “humane certified,” or other such label, and may be referred to as “humane meat.”

This raises two questions in my mind. First, is there such a thing as truly “humane meat”? And second, even if we agree that some meat involves better conditions than conventional meat, should animal advocates promote it? I will address both questions in turn.

Is there such a thing as humane meat?
Let’s pose a question: Would you be willing to eat “humanely raised dog meat” or “humanely raised cat meat”?


I suspect not, and yet there is no rational difference between eating a dog or a pig, a cat or a chicken. All of these species are made of flesh, blood, and bone. And they have interests and personalities, as everyone who has spent time at Farm Sanctuary knows so well.

In fact, scientists have shown that pigs and chickens outperform dogs and cats on scientific tests of behavioral and cognitive sophistication. For the same reason that there is no such thing as humane dog meat, there is also no such thing as humane chicken, pork, or beef. Simply put, killing an animal in order to eat her cannot be called humane.

Let’s pose a second question: Would you be willing to cut an animal’s throat? For most of us, taking an animal’s life is abhorrent; we just wouldn’t do it. Of course, all of us could spend an afternoon participating in every aspect of getting plants to the table — picking them, packaging them, etc. But there is no aspect of slaughtering animals that is similarly pleasant, no aspect that any of us would enjoy doing.


If you’re like most people, you would not slice open a chicken’s throat for something as inconsequential as a meal. But this is precisely what we’re doing if we’re eating meat. Although we’re not personally killing the animal, we are paying someone to do it for us. And if we wouldn’t do it ourselves — if we wouldn’t even want to watch it — we should ask ourselves, where is the basic integrity in paying someone to do something we are opposed to?

Should animal advocates promote “humane meat”?
We should also understand that our decisions can have a strong impact on other people, and our decision to eat any meat at all (even if the meat is from producers that are less abusive) may influence others to eat factory farmed meat.

I’ve been a vegan for 27 years, and, in that time, I’ve convinced many friends and acquaintances to follow my lead. Each one of these individuals saves just as many animals through their veganism as I do through mine. Every person I convince to choose a plant-based diet increases my lifetime impact as a vegan.

But the reverse is also true: By not advocating veganism, all of those animals who could have been saved will instead suffer terrible lives and die horrible deaths.

Most people observing someone eating “humane” meat simply see a fellow meat-eater. They are not likely to change their own diets, because what they see is simply meat. Beyond that, eating “humane” meat is far more difficult than eating a vegan diet. Every restaurant in the country has something for vegans to eat, and it’s almost always cheaper than the meat-based alternatives. The vast majority of cities don’t have even a single restaurant that serves meat from animals who have not been factory farmed.

Obviously, working for improved living and dying conditions for farmed animals is a critical element in the animal rights movement. We should be fighting to ban gestation crates and battery cages. We should be working to ensure that the Humane Slaughter Act is properly enforced. The vast majority of Americans explicitly support banning abusive systems and decreasing abuse at slaughter, and we should strive to align our laws with our national values.

It’s important for the animals involved that we take steps toward ending the cruelty they endure every day. We cannot ignore the animals who are currently suffering.

But for anyone who truly cares about animals, veganism is the only choice that aligns our values — our opposition to cruelty and killing — with our actions.

It’s not that much to ask, and lives are depending on us.



Whistleblower Suppression Laws Threaten Human Health, the Environment, and Animals

by Bruce Friedrich

This is the true story of how the meat industry is manipulating our legislative process so that it can continue to abuse animals and workers while jeopardizing public health and our environment.

The 2008 Meat Recall: Our Schools’ Food at Risk
The story begins in 2008 with the nation’s largest meat recall: The United States Department of Agriculture recalled 143 million pounds of potentially diseased and dangerous meat after an investigator from The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) revealed systemic violations of the Federal Meat Inspection Act at Hallmark/Westland, the second-largest National School Lunch Program beef supplier. Day after day, the plant had been shipping meat to our nation’s schools from animals too sick and diseased even to walk, thereby putting our children at great risk for exposure to foodborne pathogens and other diseases and illnesses, including Mad Cow Disease.

To force diseased and disabled animals to walk, workers were “ramming cows with the blades of a forklift, jabbing them in the eyes, applying painful electrical shocks to sensitive areas, dragging them with chains pulled by heavy machinery, and torturing them with a high-pressure water hose to simulate drowning as they attempted to force these animals to walk to slaughter,” according to HSUS President and CEO Wayne Pacelle. Not only was this cruel, it also represented a violation of state and federal laws. Remarkably, just a few years before the HSUS investigation, the Hallmark/Westland plant in question had been honored as a USDA “supplier of the year.”

The Humane Society and federal government sued Hallmark for endangering the health of our nation’s school kids in violation of signed contracts. The case concluded last November when the plant’s owners agreed to a mostly symbolic (the company was already bankrupt) $500 million settlement.

The Meat Industry’s Response
This investigation was just one in a long line of undercover probes by animal protection organizations. Every year, we see more of these investigations; sadly, every investigation finds new and horrific abuses of animals in violation of federal and state laws, often while on-site government inspectors look the other way.

Responsible or savvy industries would answer this overwhelming evidence of flagrant and endemic law-breaking with a serious commitment to change their behavior. They would reform their practices to eliminate the culture of cruelty that seems to infest industrial farms and slaughterhouses. They would, as USDA consultant and slaughterhouse expert Dr. Temple Grandin has suggested, install video cameras to monitor for animal abuse and food safety problems, and they would hire independent inspectors to review the video and make sure that there was no gratuitous abuse and that dangerous meat was not being sold.

Incredibly, instead of working to prevent the abuse, the meat industry is now vigorously pushing laws to prevent people from finding out about it — to make criminals not out of the animal abusers or those who foist dangerous meat onto school-children, but out of undercover investigators. That’s right: The industry’s response to years of evidence of egregious, and often criminal, animal cruelty and of diseased and adulterated meat entering the market is to attempt to outlaw undercover investigations. In 2011, the meat industry backed laws in four states to make taking photos or videos on farms and slaughterhouses illegal. In 2012, the industry pushed similar laws in 10 states. This year, we expect even more.

New Laws, Same Effect
These newest iterations of the whistleblower suppression bills have come in two new packages, both of which would protect illegal and unethical activity from ever seeing the light of day.

The first version criminalizes making false representations while applying to work at an industrial farm or slaughterhouse. If you are affiliated with a charity that cares about animals, the environment, or workers, you don’t get the job. The intent of this bill is to block undercover investigators from, say, The Humane Society of the United States, Human Rights Watch, or Brian Ross’ investigative news team from getting jobs where they could witness and record abuse of animals or workers, illegal disposal of waste, or other unethical and illegal practices.

The second version requires that any witnessed illegal activity be reported to authorities and all video documentation turned over immediately. It’s certainly possible that animal-friendly legislators are supporting this bill out of concern for animals, but, of course, undercover investigations, whether of a drug ring or organized crime syndicate or factory farm, require that the investigator document the full extent of the illegal activity. If the FBI or CIA stopped an investigation at the first sign of criminal activity, wrong-doers would be inadequately punished, if they were punished at all, because the full extent of the criminal behavior would not be known.

Similarly, if an investigator witnesses illegal abuse of animals and immediately turns in that evidence without thorough documentation, the plant may receive a slap on the wrist (at best), the investigator leaves the plant, and business-as-usual continues. Of course, the real goal (and effect) of this bill is that no investigations happen in the first place.

That’s why animal protection groups from the ASPCA to the Humane Society of the United States to my organization, Farm Sanctuary, are lining up against these bills, and no humane organization is supporting them. If these bills were good for animals, they would have the support of the humane community, not the meat industry.

It is worth noting that time and again during undercover slaughterhouse investigations, plant management has been made aware of abuse (or actually has participated in it themselves), and federal inspectors were on site at all times. So, in addition to destroying the power of the investigations to begin with, turning in evidence of illegal activity to authorities before a full case can be prepared would be unlikely to result in any meaningful improvements whatsoever. For example, all of the abuses at the Hallmark plant, which sent millions of pounds of diseased meat into our nation’s schools, took place while no fewer than five federal inspectors were present. Yet, between 2004 and 2008, the USDA’s Office of the Inspector General reports that it “found no evidence that in-plant inspectors wrote [non-compliance records] or took suspension actions for humane handling violations.” In other words, the USDA inspectors knew of the abuse and did nothing to stop it — action was taken only after the HSUS’s investigation was made public.

Here are just a few more examples of oversight problems that elucidate the need for these independent investigations:

  • At a plant in North Carolina, workers violently kicked and stomped on turkeys among other sadistic abuses that led to multiple cruelty convictions. USDA inspectors did nothing to stop the abuse, and the state’s director of Animal Health Programs even tipped off the company to an impending raid (she was subsequently convicted of obstruction of justice).
  • At a plant in Iowa, cattle had their tracheas ripped out and their throats slit open while they were still conscious; they were then dumped onto the ground, where 1 in 10 remained alive and struggling to stand for more than a minute. USDA investigators did nothing and no USDA personnel were fired after the abuse came to light.
  • At a plant in Vermont, a worker used a shock pole to repeatedly shock non-ambulatory calves who were too injured to walk and then hit them at the top of their skulls with a captive bolt tool. The calves often remained conscious, bleeding and kicking for minutes, sometimes hours. A USDA inspector in the plant, Dr. Dean Wyatt, testified before Congress that he was reprimanded and threatened with termination by his supervisors for trying to report abuse at the plant.

Take Action: Oppose Whistleblower Suppression Bills
Every conviction of a slaughterhouse or industrial farm worker has come about because of an undercover investigation from an animal protection organization. And every one of these investigations would have been impossible and the dangerous Hallmark/Westland meat would still be pouring into our nation’s schools, if these states had passed any version of these whistleblower suppression bills.

More than two-thirds of Americans “support undercover investigative efforts by animal welfare organizations to expose animal abuse on industrial farms, including 54 percent who strongly support the efforts,” according to a poll commissioned by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). But they will be illegal in any state that passes any version of these anti-whistleblower bills.

As the editorial page editor of the largest daily paper in Wyoming put it following an HSUS investigation of an industrial pig farm in that state, “Criminalizing undercover investigations at such farm operations would effectively tell the owners that they can do anything they want to their livestock.”

And whistleblower suppression bills don’t just harm animals, they also harm our freedom of speech, environmental efforts, and worker rights — which is why these bills are opposed by more than thirty charities, including The Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA, the Sierra Club, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the United Food and Commercial Workers.

Farm Sanctuary also opposes these bills. You can join our efforts to fight them by signing up for our email list.

The meat industry wants this investigator to go to jail, and the meat from this plant to continue being fed to schoolchildren:

Wal-Mart Harms Animals, Ignores Science

By Bruce Friedrich

There is a battle going on between animal protection advocates and the pork industry over “gestation crates,” the 2-foot by 7-foot cages that confine about 80 percent of the United States’ 5.5 million breeding pigs. In these crates, pregnant pigs are unable to engage in most of their most important natural behaviors. They’re never able to turn around or even lie down comfortably, day and night, for their entire lives.

Honey, escaped life in a gestation crate during the flooding of the Mississippi River in 2008. She now lives at our New York Shelter.

Over the past decade, nine states have banned the crates — most recently, Rhode Island, after lobbying by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the ASPCA, and Farm Sanctuary. Building on our legislative success, HSUS has convinced a long list of corporate behemoths to phase out the systems, from Smithfield Foods, Oscar Mayer, and Hormel to Costco and Burger King.

When a practice is so cruel that Smithfield Foods agrees it has to go, you have to wonder who might be foolish enough to defend it. In fact, our campaign has been so successful that a former stalwart defender of crates, agricultural scientist Ted Friend from Texas A&M, has called on pork producers to stop their “kicking and screaming” and to recognize that a crate phase-out is simply “another inevitable change.”

Wal-Mart: Ignores the Science and Defends Cruelty to Animals.
Mercy for Animals documented their investigation into a Wal-Mart supplier. The following video shows in graphic detail just how bad these crates really are. Please watch.

I’ve attempted several times, without success, to secure a response from Wal-Mart concerning their continued use of gestation crates in their supply chain. In an online response to the allegations of abuse, the company calls crate use “a complicated issue” with tenable arguments “on both sides.” This statement simply isn’t true, and it ignores the findings of scientific studies on the effects of gestation crate confinement on pigs.

Julia was pregnant when she rescued from a life of confinement in a gestation crate, and cruel abuse, in a factory farm in New York. She now lives at our New York Shelter with her children.

The Scientific Consensus
The science is not in dispute: immobilization of pigs in crates is highly damaging for them, both mentally and physically.

There are a host of physical problems that result from crate confinement, each of which represents extreme suffering for pigs. First, the animals’ muscles and bones waste away so severely from lack of use that walking becomes excruciating; even standing up can be painful. Second, because the animals rub against the bars of their crates and lie in their own excrement all day and night, they suffer painful ammonia burns on their skin, and their lungs become raw from breathing putrid air. Third, the animals are in a constant state of starvation because they are fed about half of what they would normally consume. Fourth, due to lack of exercise and decreased water consumption, many sows suffer from urinary tract infections (UTIs), which are associated with a high mortality rate. For source information on each of these issues, check out this scientific report from the Humane Society of the United States.

The situation is no better in terms of the animals’ mental health: Pigs have cognitive and emotional capacities beyond those of dogs, and, in some areas, they outperform even chimpanzees. So it’s no surprise that they suffer mental and emotional anguish when they’re unable to move for most of their lives. Meat industry consultant Dr. Temple Grandin states unequivocally what the science proves — that animals need companionship every bit as much as humans do; they love to play, they experience joy, and more. Every one of these natural desires is impossible to experience when they are confined in tiny crates. The relentless stress and frustration routinely leads to mental instability in these animals, who chew maniacally on the bars in frustration causing their mouths to bleed from cuts and sores.

Nikki also had been confined in a gestation crate when she was pregnant. Like Honey, she escaped during floods and gave birth on a levee. She was rescued and now lives at our New York Shelter with her children.

At Farm Sanctuary, we spend our lives with farm animals, and we wouldn’t eat them regardless of their treatment prior to slaughter. There is no moral or rational difference between consuming a dog or a pig, a cat or a chicken.

But we also work to eliminate the worst abuses of farm animals, and it’s hard to imagine anything worse than gestation crates; immobilizing animals for their entire lives qualifies, without a touch of hyperbole, as torture.

Please take action now to pressure Wal-Mart to stop its support for cruelty to animals.