The Humane Society of the United States recently released an undercover video with footage from both Prestage Farms and Seaboard Foods swine operations alleging animal abuse. Each company’s response to this issue follows. It is significant to note that while some of the video appears to be of abuse, there is no scientific evidence to support those claims.
Sometimes, practices that actually protect the animals as they mature are performed at birth or very soon afterward. To those that are not aware of the reasons for these practices, they may appear as abuse. At the same time, perfectly normal behavior can, for the same reasons, appear to represent abuse or neglect. One example that comes immediately to mind is a photograph of a young chicken just beginning to develop feathers. They are sad looking creatures and can easily be mistaken for neglected animals. Therefore, it is important that we continue to educate the public and look for better ways to perform necessary procedures.
Prestage Farms Response:
In response to an undercover video released today by the animal rights group Humane Society of the United States, Prestage Farms’ Ron Prestage, DVM said, “We recognize our moral and ethical obligation to provide for the responsible treatment of our animals. Any willful mistreatment or neglect of animals is unacceptable. Prestage Farms takes animal well-being very seriously and has a history of implementing programs that help to train our employees on proper animal care, handling, and transporting procedures.”
“The video focuses primarily on the use of gestation stalls and depicts this production practice as being cruel to the animal. Prestage Farms has production systems for both group housing and individual housing. We respect the right of farmers to use different housing systems because we know that good animal care is the result of the individual commitment of those who care for the animals as well as sound production practices. Whether raised in groups or individual housing, we are committed to sound animal care.”
“We have already initiated an internal investigation to assure that company policies and procedures are being followed. If a determination is made that any employee of the company engaged in activities contrary to the policies they agreed to follow, we will take disciplinary action as appropriate, including termination of employment, as is provided in our animal welfare policy. This has been done before when a violation of our policies has been identified.”
We’ve reviewed documented employee actions alleging abuse and listened to the recent discussions questioning U.S. industry practices of sow gestation, swine tail cutting (or docking) and swine castration, and strongly dispute any allegations of abuse. We are pleased that our employees are following proper industry-supported protocols and procedures. In direct response to the recently released video by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Dr. Temple Grandin, Ph.D., who also is quoted in the video, stated that “there was no bad behavior by people” in the operations depicted at Seaboard Foods.
We are committed to the proper and humane treatment of animals, and we believe animals can and should be raised, transported and processed using procedures that are safe and free from cruelty and neglect. We are proud of our employees for exemplifying best practices in their day to day work and truly being leaders within the industry.
Our farm managers and farm sites are PQA Plus certified with specific requirements for proper animal care. Moreover, our guidelines and protocols are audited independently by Farm Animal Care Training and Auditing, LLC, (FACTA), a company led by Chief Executive and Scientific Officer John McGlone, Ph.D. and professor at the Pork Industry Institute at Texas Tech University, who is supported by a group of credentialed auditors and educators.
It is important to recognize animal welfare programs, including housing for gestating sows, must be based on sound science while also seeking a balance with societal concerns. Seaboard Foods’ integrated system uses both stalls and group pens to house gestating sows. Animal welfare experts and professional groups have found no one method for housing gestating sows that is clearly better than the other when managed properly. As part of our ongoing evaluation of best practices, we are conducting research to determine the best management practices for alternative sow housing practices in our system. Furthermore, swine tail docking and castration are essential industry practices for the health and well-being of food animals as stated by the American Veterinary Medical Association.
Seaboard Foods employees uphold best industry practices and our company will continue to act in ways that provide the most humane treatment for our animals. All decisions stem from this commitment.