A Mercy for Animals (MFA) spokesman revealed more details about the process used to pressure retailers to make gestation stall decisions during a press conference held in Minneapolis this morning.
Matt Rice, director of investigations for the activist group, revealed more about MFA’s overarching goals while answering questions from reporters after showing undercover video recorded at a Christensen Farms facility near Hanska, MN. Rice claimed the video footage was shot during a 10-week time period between Dec. 2011 and March 2012. He said that the main reason for revealing the undercover video at this time, nearly five months later, was to pressure Walmart into calling for an end to gestation stall use among its pork industry suppliers.
“We’ve been talking to Costco, K-Mart and Walmart for months,” Rice said. “It was only after months of foot-dragging (by the retailers) that we decided to go public. We have been talking to customers of Christensen farms for months and Walmart was the last holdout. If Walmart had come forward (with a statement on gestation stalls), we wouldn’t have come out with this video. Our goal is to eliminate needless cruelty to farmed animals. Kroger and Safeway have started demanding their suppliers do away with these cruel crates. Yet Walmart continues to support blatant animal abuse.”
MFA is urging Walmart to end its supplier relationship with Christensen Farms and adopt new animal welfare guidelines prohibiting their pork suppliers from confining pigs in gestation stalls. Walmart's response was that customers are offered a choice of gestation-stall-free pork products in a number of stores and that the company believes in offering customers a choice.
Though the video depicts clean, healthy, well-fed pigs, and has been evaluated by a review panel familiar with ethical and research-based practices, Rice said the practices documented in the video would shock and horrify most Americans. “We see pregnant pigs confined for nearly their entire lives in crates barely larger than their own bodies, and piglets being slammed, headfirst into the ground and having their testicles ripped out and tails cut off without painkillers. This is a matter of industry standards, but the general public would not be supportive of standards such as these if they were applied to their beloved dogs and cats at home,” he stated.
“Investigators did report these cruel practices to management, but unfortunately, what you see is considered standard industry practice and employees are actually trained to rip testicles out with no painkillers and ‘thump’ piglets to kill them by slamming them into concrete,” Rice continued. “Unfortunately, these are legal practices, so there is nothing to report to authorities here. There were no laws being broken, so this is a call to action to take steps against these cruel practices.”
Rice said the undercover investigators who take videos such as this one, use their real names and real social security numbers, and follow all employment laws.
In the publically available Tax Form 990, filed by MFA, the group indicates the purpose of the organization is, “Vegetarian Outreach. MFA promotes vegetarianism and veganism as a practical way to reduce animal suffering.” When asked during the press conference what MFA would view to be the ideal solution to housing pigs, Rice mentioned pen gestation, but then said, “Ideally animals would not be exploited at all.”
View the undercover video here.