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  • Thanks for your insightful and educational articles. Farmers and producers who make a career out of working with animals have a much better understanding ...


  • The fact that the sows bite the crates shows they are in deep distress


  • The problem starts with making an animal a commodity; it's worth is reduced to its' financial worth. The entire system of animal agriculture is based upon ...


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  • Translating Food Technology: Avian flu has cooled...for now

    Bird flu epidemic has slowed, but it's not gone

    The epidemic of highly pathogenic avian influenza, which has now caused the death of more than 48 million birds, has slowed, as USDA reports no new outbreaks in the last 30 days. However, that reprieve may be only temporary, as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack told Congress in a hearing last week the agency is preparing for the disease's return in the fall.

    As of mid-June, the last date any incident had been reported nationwide, highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses had been detected in commercial and backyard poultry flocks in 15 states, involving 223 premises and affecting more than 48 million birds, resulting in death due to infection or depopulation as part of the control effort. In Nebraska, the state ag department reported last week it had completed testing on flocks near the farms in the state where the virus had been confirmed, in Dakota, Dixon, Wayne and Thurston counties. About 3.8 million birds have been affected in Nebraska.

    Just as is the case with human flu, because the influenza virus does not survive easily in hot weather, recent cases of bird flu have waned. However, veterinary health officials are concerned the disease will return this fall for either of two reasons:

    • Cooler and wetter weather in fall will present conditions in which the virus grows and spreads.
    • Migration of wild birds will seasonally increase. Wild migratory waterfowl and shorebirds carry and spread the avian influenza virus globally, so their natural increase in movement in fall will increase the risk for transmitting the viruses to domestic poultry within their natural flyways.

    Ag Secretary Vilsack told the House Ag Committee USDA is beefing up its plans to respond to a fall increase in avian influenza by improving containment strategies, encouraging development of a possible commercially available vaccine against the disease, exploring methods to efficiently destroy and dispose of the millions of birds that could become infected, evaluating whether and how to pay farmers for those losses and determining how to quickly repopulate lost flocks. He said the agency considers 500 simultaneous outbreaks to be the worst-case scenario.

    No reported human infections have resulted from the current outbreak of bird flu in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the viruses circulating in the country pose low risk to people.

    Map of avian flu outbreaks


    Species breakdown of bird flu

  • Navigating the New Food Movement: The trouble with the food-waste crusaders

    What the food waste controversy really means

    English comedian John Oliver's 17-minute monolog trashing America's food wasting binge on his HBO series Last Week Tonight earned more than 2 million YouTube views and renewed praise from food activists who see this issue as the tip of our wider food-system problems. “The amount we throw out has increased by 50 percent since the 1970s," Oliver ranted. "At this rate, in 40 years when you order pizza from Domino’s, they’ll just deliver it straight to the nearest dumpster. As they should–but that’s not the point here.”

    Recognizing the risk in taking a professional comedian at his word that he's trying to make a serious point--even though we are assured by media commentaters that half of today's Millennials consider political satire shows a frequent source of political news--Oliver's send-up of our food waste problem may have bitten off a little more than he can chew by raising some serious questions:

    Why food? Following Oliver's mouth-agape revelation that some fruit is left to rot in the fields because it won't grade high enough to be worth the cost to pack and ship it, in fairness one could wonder when we'll see a similar bit about the waste of perfectly fresh jokes that didn't make it out of the writer's room to be broadcast. Shouldn't America's comedy-starved be permitted access to second-rate comedy, even if it is a little muddy, fumbled and forced? It again raises the age-old question: Why is the food system, and its members like commercial grocers, singled out for unique criticism as a cultural touchstone and political issue? Notwithstanding a few flimsy attempts to demonstrate something unique about food because it intimately touches us all, no cultural commentators have really identified why the food system--and in some cases, the food system alone--warrants such heavy scrutiny.

    Where's the cloud behind this silver lining? In sharp contrast to Oliver's grinning gloom-and-doom, economics scholars like Robert Hahn of the American Enterprise Institute argue critics have it precisely backwards when it comes to waste: Waste, repugnant though it may be, is a sign the system is succeeding, not failing. ''The primary reason so much gets tossed is that America has the cheapest food in the world," Hahn has said, capable of giving even the poorest the opportunity to waste.

    Better still, studies show the vast majority of food that gets wasted--nearly two-thirds of it--gets wasted by the consumer, not the production and delivery system, precisely because it's fresh and perishable: Most of the 154 pounds wasted by each person per year, according to research firm Garnett, consists of fresh fruits, vegetables and salads---exactly the type of healthier food the food movement urges people to have more access to and is the mark of a healthful food chain.

    Give us liberty, or give us blemished apples? Like so many of today's food issues, the food-waste question is a question of consumer freedom. “Consumers typically demand a wide variety of high-quality, cosmetically appealing, and convenient foods,” a USDA report on the issue said in 2014. “As a result, blemished, misshapen, or wrong-sized foods are often discarded to meet minimum quality standards.” A widely cited Natural Resources Defense Council report guessed that out of all the produce that’s thrown out, 10 percent to 30 percent gets wasted simply because it looks bad.

    On a deeper level, that type of encouragement of food beautification by culling the substandard does not sit well with much of today's political left, which uses food to find wider cultural meaning. “It’s time we had a reality check in terms of how the food is grown,” according to Dana Frasz, founder and director of Oakland's Food Shift, which politically advocates for waste prevention. “The culture of perfection is so ingrained in our society, whether you’re talking about human bodies or your houses or your food."

    That type of "food shaming" is a small manifestation of the wider environmental activism that abandons economic logic for belief in a more religious fundamentalism, writes economist Steven Landsburg, author of Why I Am Not An Environmentalist:

    "After my daughter progressed from preschool to kindergarten," Landsburg writes, "her teachers taught her to conserve resources by rinsing out her paper cup instead of discarding it. I explained to her that time is also a valuable resource, and it might be worth sacrificing some cups to save some time. Her teachers taught her that mass transportation is good because it saves energy. I explained to her that it might be worth sacrificing some energy in exchange for the comfort of a private car. Her teachers taught her to recycle paper so that wilderness is not converted to landfill space. I explained to her that it might be worth sacrificing some wilderness in exchange for the luxury of not having to sort your trash. In each case, her five-year-old mind had no difficulty grasping the point. ...We do not recycle. We teach our daughter not to recycle. We teach her that people who try to convince her to recycle, or who try to force her to recycle, are intruding on her rights."

    Where's the fine line between "should" and "must." The largely unspoken truth about such a reality check is that if the free market isn't imposing it as strictly as critics like Frasz would have it, then it's going to have to eventually be imposed by political and regulatory systems. Think it can't go that far? Retailers in France now face new legislation that forces them to donate any food they can't sell to charity or face possible criminal prosecution. Forget the reality that the supermarkets themselves will be compelled to absorb the cost of distributing that charity, never mind the statistics showing only a small percentage of the waste is directly caused by the retailer, the legislation's sponsor, Arash Derambarsh, told the London media the push must start with them. "My only problem," he countered his critics, "is that these [88 pounds of food each retailers waste per day] will not go to the garbage, but will go to the plates of poor people."

    Have market forces just become too messy? It's the system, not the individual shopper, who is to blame for our waste problem, according to critics like the aptly titled Green Left Weekly. "Limiting personal consumption is a good idea where possible. But it hardly scratches the surface of the ecological problem, which lies in how our stuff is made and distributed," writes editor Simon Butler.

    Much of the criticism of food waste, including Oliver's, is a revisitation on a theme that has been rehashed for centuries, writes food historian Warren Belasco. "For millennia," Belasco writes, "food has meant unrelenting drudgery, not just for cooks, but also for all food workers--farmers, field laborers, butchers, grocers, clerks, servers, and so on." But standing amid today's supermarket cornucopia of "too many food choices" (as some advocates voice their longing for a simpler system), it's easy for us to forget one of the aims of the early 20th century liberal Progressive ancestors of today's Food Left. Their goal was to make the food system not less efficient, as often becomes the practical goal today, but to make it more efficient. The Progressive aim was to, in effect, he says, "disappear it" and its never-ending hunger for labor, capital and the kind of day-upon-day demand in human toil that literally wore out producers like my grandmother.

    Spent-on-food1aThat's all good news, save for one problem: The aim was accomplished not by the public service, shared sacrifice, intellectual guidance and omnipotent hand of government that exemplified the ideal social model of the '60s left. The world was fed better, faster and cheaper by the selfish, messy, profit-driven capitalism of John Deere, McDonald's, Continental Grains, and Kraft Foods. The average American blue-collar laborer has been freed more thoroughly by a food system that allows him to devote over 90 percent of his income to something other than feeding his family than all the anti-globalization marches that voice support for a localized food system. In that sense, the conflict going on between the free-market economies of American agriculture and the planned economies of the local community food security movement is an old, old fight reconfigured.

    Today's insistence on viewing the food-waste problem through the lens of a "socially just" and "sustainable" capitalism ignores the fact that the root cause isn't too much food. It's too little prosperity. Recycling bread loaves past their "sell by" date doesn't end hunger. Improving the economic opportunity to buy them fresh from your shelf does.

    Or, as the American Enterprise Institute's Haun succinctly puts it, ''If you want to feed the poor, give them food stamps."

  • Foresight on Food Politics: Three good reasons to question Walmart's latest

    How Wal-Mart

    Food giant Walmart announced in late May it would begin requiring farms supplying its animal products to agree to meet certain standards of "humane treatment" of farm animals, including restrictions on use of antibiotics. As part of this latest move, the retailer which reportedly now controls one-fourth of the world's grocery food sales will "ask" all its U.S. fresh and frozen meat, deli, dairy and egg suppliers to watch for and report animal abuse, change buildings and management practices that crowd animals or cause avoidable pain, and write out and report on their animal-welfare policies.

    Walmart's action joins those of other retailers and restaurants making similar "voluntary" demands on their suppliers. Burger King, Hyatt and Sodexo have announced they will sell eggs that come from cage-free birds only. Fast-food chain Chipotle claims it sells only “all-natural,” and “antibiotic-free” pork. McDonald’s, Applebee’s, Denny’s and Safeway are just a few of the large food buyers and sellers recently announcing they will begin or have begun to demand farmers stop using gestation crates in raising pigs.

    Advocates argue all these moves come in response to growing consumer demand for better animal welfare. “Since 2013, the number of consumers who say it is important that their grocery store practice animal welfare has grown from 17 percent to 21 percent,” says the Food Marketing Institute's June 10 41st annual U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends study. A survey conducted by the American Humane Association, which audits and certifies farms for animal welfare standards, claims 93 percent of nearly 6,000 respondents said buying products from humanely raised animals is "very important," and nearly three-quarters said they would be willing to pay more for it.

    But does consumer demand really support Walmart's new dictates? Should community grocers follow along? Here are three good reasons to be cautious about this emerging trend toward demands on production and marketing practices, from traceability to environmental standards to animal-welfare and other “sustainability” claims:

    1. What it all means is vague

    Studies prove the seemingly simple term "animal welfare" covers some complex nuances, says Belgian professor Filiep Vanhonacker, not only in objective terms but also in consumer perception. Some consumers infer animal welfare from a subjective combination of animal-welfare aspects, often clouded and colored by confusing marketing that uses imagery of pastoral farms and "happy" animals. Other consumers may take a more studied and objective approach based on specific standards, but even those can often be unsubstantiated and even contradictory. Case in point of this paradox: Walmart's announced restriction on use of antibiotics could be--and has been--argued by some experts to actually be an impediment to improving animal welfare.

    All those uncertainties cloud the real consumer demand picture hiding behind those rosy studies like FMI's.

    2. Evidence of any real demand is thin to nonexistent

    It's important to bear in mind, Texas Tech ag economist Darren Hudson reminded economics scholars in a 2010 article, companies--like Walmart--have always tried to shape public opinion to differentiate their brands and increase consumers' willingness to pay a better price. But that kind of supply-side manipulation says little about what consumers are really willing to pay for. Hudson cites studies noting that when consumers who say they favor animal-welfare standards are asked if they still favor them if they cost more in price and taxes, their support significantly wanes. He considers the scientific literature supporting true economic impact of animal welfare to be "scant."

    The fact is the economics research generally agrees that willingness-to-pay estimates are inflated, due to respondents' tendency to answer based on their own hypothetical assumptions and their unwillingness to give the politically incorrect answer to surveyors. Consumers may in fact be willing to put money on the counter for animal welfare, says Danish ag economics professor Laura Mørch Andersen, but so far it's only to a small degree. "Our results," she writes, "suggest that the stated willingness to pay observed in opinion polls...to a large extent is just cheap talk." Her work cautions retailers to consider the market for higher welfare products to be only a niche market, capable of attracting only certain consumer segments. Walmart's across-the-board requirements are precisely the opposite of the segmented and targeted marketing strategy necessary to make animal-welfare labeling profitable--particularly when you consider the consumer segments being most directly targeted, meat eaters, are the consumer segment that most value taste and related sensory attributes and consistently value them above animal-care issues.

    Furthermore, it's important to consider whether consumer demand is being manufactured or inflated by interests like the growing cottage industry in certifying animal farms as humane. American Humane Association, for instance, the same "no animals were harmed in the making of this movie" non-profit that audits commercial movies, shows revenue of about a half million dollars a year and pays out about $1.7 million in expenses on its farm certification program, according to 2014 IRS documents. Although tiny by comparison to WalMart's sales, that kind of money earned from only 10 percent of all animals raised for food demonstrates at least the potential exists to create a demand for welfare auditing even absent any real consumer demand. (Note: American Humane Association did not respond to Farmer Goes to Market's request for clarification on its income and expenses derived from auditing and certifying farms.)

    But perhaps the most compelling evidence that consumers say they want voluntary production constraints like Walmart's but won't pay for them comes from the biggest real-world experiment in such practices so far, says University of California at Davis economist Tina Saitone. Numerous studies demonstrate consumers routinely tell surveyors they will buy more organic foods at a price premium, yet the market share for organic in the United States has remained stalled over the last decade at only about 3 percent of food sales. Saitone calls the difference between experimental studies and the real marketplace a "vast chasm."

    3. Volunteer? Maybe, but everybody pays at the end of the day

    Saitone's most recent research, scheduled for publication in an upcoming issue of the American Journal of Agricultural Economics, deftly takes apart the argument that WalMart's dictates are nothing but free-market "consumer choice" giving shoppers a wider range of choices. In the case of restricting antibiotic use in animals to improve their productivity, Saitone writes in "What Happens when Food Marketers Require Restrictive Farming Practices?" the practice ends up costing all farmers on the production side and all consumers on the consumption side. In a nutshell, she observes, the problem is that most of the food produced by restrictive agreements ends up going into marketing channels in which a premium can't be captured. In other words, even though McDonalds, for instance, may buy 18 percent of a hog in terms of cuts (bacon, sausage, ham), it's not possible to raise a "partially antibiotic-free" hog. That means even though that 18 percent antibiotic-free pork may conceivably earn a premium, the remaining 82 percent that's antibiotic-free but going into conventional channels will have incurred the added cost without hope for added price premium. The same argument could be posed for WalMart's humanely-raised animals. At the end of the day, the demand by such a powerful market entity will increase costs for the entire chain, including you.

    It's a reality that free-market philosopher Milton Friedman illuminated more than 40 years ago. In arguing against the then-fashionable trend for businesses to demonstrate their "social responsibilities," the economic theorist and University of Chicago professor objected to small boards of corporate directors imposing such social-justice demands on their customers. By spending somebody else's money to underwrite a general social interest, Friedman believed, big business is in effect imposing a tax by dictate that is counter to the American way. "We have established elaborate constitutional, parlimentary and judicial provisions to control these functions, to assure that taxes are imposed so far as possible in accordance with the preferences and desires of the public--after all, 'taxation with representation' was one of the battle cries of the American Revolution." By short-cutting that process, as Walmart has done, over-bearing big business appoints itself legislator, executive and jurist to decide whom to tax by how much and for what purpose. Walmart's dicates are precisely that kind of extra-governmental regulation in action.

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  • Competitive Commodity Insights: Egg shortage to persist

    Egg outlook unclear

    USDA reports that driven by the decrease in the number of layers in the table egg flock, primarily in Iowa, due to the avian flu outbreak, total U.S. table egg production dropped 7 percent in May to 571 million dozen. During May, the number of hens in the table egg laying flock averaged 283 million, down 7 percent from a year earlier. The strong decline in May has caused the forecast for second-quarter 2015 to be reduced by 15 million dozen to 1.7 billion dozen, down almost 6 percent from the previous year. Year-over-year table egg production is forecast to be lower than the previous year during the second half of 2015 and into the first quarter of 2016, reflecting the time needed to get replacement pullets to repopulate farms and into production.

    The size of the table egg flock was reduced by the impact of the HPAI outbreak, but since the broiler sector has not been significantly impacted, the size of the hatching egg flock and egg production have remained above the previous year. In May, hatching egg production totaled 95 million dozen, 4 percent higher than a year earlier. With this strong increase, the forecast for second-quarter hatching egg production was raised to 280 million dozen. Broiler-type egg production dominates this sector of the industry, and hatching egg production is forecast to remain above the previous year throughout 2015 and through the first half of 2016 as the broiler industry expands. Wholesale prices for grade A large eggs in the New York market averaged $1.70 per dozen in second-quarter 2015, up 27 percent from the previous year. Over the last 2 weeks of June and carrying over into the beginning of July, wholesale egg prices had been steady at $1.89 per dozen, but have moved higher in recent days. Lower table egg production during the second half of 2015 is expected to keep upward pressure on prices, and the forecast is for wholesale prices in the New York market to remain well above year-earlier levels.

    Total egg exports (shell eggs and egg products) reached the shell egg equivalent of 26 million dozen in May, 16 percent lower than in the previous year. The decline was primarily due to a sharp decrease in exports to Mexico. Shipments to Mexico were 34 percent lower in May compared with a year earlier. Egg exports in 2015 are now expected to total 364 million dozen. The forecast for 2016 exports remains at 385 million dozen.

  • Meet your Farmers: Experience life on the 19th century Nebraska farm with these children

    Students from St. Joseph's Catholic School in York take a field trip to Wessels Living History Farm on the edge of town to experience a small taste of the life of Nebraska farm kids from the 19th century.

  • On the Lighter Side: When it comes to fair food, we do have our limits

    For the first time in its 162-year history, the California State Fair will feature an official chef, preparing salads from his own garden of fairgrounds-grown fresh fruits and vegetables. Somebody stop the madness and bring us a deep-fried Twinkie.

Translating Food Technology: Why Would Pig Farmers Insist on Using 'Gestation Crates?'

Why do pig farmers use gestation crates?The last 45 days have seen a line of announcements by food retailers and quick-service restaurant chains that they would soon begin to deman their pork suppliers phase out the use of "gestation crates," individual stalls in which pregnant and newly delivered sows are housed. Spurred by criticism from animal rights groups that the practice is cruel, Smithfield Foods, the country's largest pork farm, first announced in 2007 it would gradually abandon the practice over a 10-year period. Animal-rights groups have lobbied heavily against the practice, often successfully. Ballot initiatives banning sow stalls have passed in many states, and threat of action has led to voluntary agreements to cease their use in other states and Canada. Although Smithfield had earlier backed off on its promise because it was facing financial hardship, Smithfield President and CEO Larry Pope said the company’s hog operations had converted housing for 30 percent of its sow herd and was now back on track to meet the 2017 goal.

Since March, Wendy's, Burger King, Safeway, Sonic, Denny's, McDonalds, Cracker Barrel and Kroger have all released statements in conjunction with the Washington-based animal-rights group Humane Society of the United States announcing they plan to pressure pork suppliers to abandon the practice.

“Kroger believes that a gestation crate-free environment is more humane and that the pork industry should work toward gestation crate-free housing,” said that company in a press release co-authored in early June with HSUS.

“Kroger’s has taken a very important step for animal welfare in declaring that the pork industry must find an exit strategy for its use of gestation crates,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of  HSUS.

Faced with the continual barrage of negative media fanned by HSUS and other animal-rights advocates, grocers and their customers may rightly ask, if so many people believe the practice of crating pigs is inhumane, why do most farmers still use them?

1. It makes indoor housing practical. First, many critics are correct when they say sow stalls are a result of the indoor housing pig farmers evolved toward in the 1970s and 1980s. However, their criticism doesn’t necessarily mean indoor housing is a bad thing—most farmers moved their pigs indoors because they believed it benefited the animals, as well as the caretakers. Indoor housing made sense because it protected both animals and farmers from weather, predators, parasites, and also because it made animal performance both better and more predictable (Pigs left outdoors typically use about a quarter of the feed they eat just to keep warm in winter, for example.)

Once farmers moved pregnant sows indoors, though, they found the traditional group housing for pregnant sows that sufficed in mud barnyards didn’t work well indoors. So they turned to individual housing as the practical solution.

2. It protects individuals from the animal's natural aggression. Why didn't that group housing work for sows housed indoors? Like people who push and crowd to get on a bus where only a few seats are empty, yet will be relaxed and courteous when they know seats are available, sows will fight, wound, and even kill one another when they think their access to feed is at risk. When farmers move 350- to 550-pound bred sows--which are only normally fed a set amount of feed once daily to control their weight--into indoor group pens, sows begin to anticipate the feed delivery, understand there will only be a set amount to go around, and begin to fight for the lion’s share of it. As a result, weaker sows will be injured, as well as be starved of their allotted feed portion. At the same time, the "boss" sows will eat too much, making them overly fat, which will eventually harm their ability to give birth to and feed a healthy set of baby pigs.

By instead training sows to eat in individual stalls before putting them into groups, farmers are in effect training them that fighting doesn’t earn them any additional feed. Each individual is ensured the correct amount of feed and the ability to eat it in peace and safety.

3. It improves the farmer's ability to manage individual animals. It would be disingenuous not to recognize that individually confining animals does also improve the farmer’s ability to manage them, by making it easier and quicker to give them medications, check their condition, and perform other tasks. However, the additional expense of crating sows (it is more expensive to build individual crates than group-housing pens) likely couldn’t justify those management concerns; the predominant reason is to prevent group fighting. Stalling is a trade-off between full mobility and reassurance of feed.

It works, but is it right?

So the question becomes, is it right or wrong to force these trade-offs on an animal? The late Dr. Stan Curtis, who spent his career at University of Illinois studying questions of how animals think and the effect of modern envorinments on them, believed it was. Before his death last year, Curtis was vocally critical of today’s animal behaviorists who conclude that assessing an animal’s well-being based on the animal’s “feelings” was a valid method of assessing the cruelty of practices like gestation crates.

“As long as we can’t yet measure how a pig feels, let alone measure the depth of any such feeling—which everyone agrees we can’t do—we can only speculate, surmise, analogize and anthropomorphize,” Curtis said. In other words, according to Curtis, what humans feel when they see a sow in a crate speaks only to how that human would feel were that human confined in a crate. It says nothing about how the sow feels. Farming decisions can’t be based on those human feelings. “What we cannot do is know, set thresholds, define limits or draw lines. How then is it reasonable to expect producers to manage pigs on that basis?”

To Curtis and those who follow his thinking, the only accurate measure we have of whether the animal is suffering in a crate is what he called the “Performance Axiom:” The best single set of measurable—and manageable—indicators of an animal’s state of being will be how well it produces and reproduces compared to its predicted potential. “When bodily resources become limited because a pig is in a situation requiring extraordinary adaptation, productive processes will be the first to decrease. We can measure that. Reproductive functions will be next. We can measure that. Maintenance processes, which ensure survival, last. These observed reductions in measurable performance traits are the earliest, most sensitive indicators that a pig’s well-being has been disturbed—much more sensitive than behavioral patterns that may indirectly signify some emotional reaction,” he said.

And the research shows that although both group housing and individual crating have advantages and disadvantages, sows peform as well or better in crates than they do in stalls, as long as both systems are managed well. Paul Sundberg, a veterinarian and vice-president of science and research for the National Pork Board, summed it up well in a Washington Post article. “The key to sow welfare isn't whether they are kept in individual crates or group housing,” he said, “but whether the system used is well managed. "[S]cience tells us that [a sow] doesn't even seem to know that she can't turn ... She wants to eat and feel safe, and she can do that very well in individual stalls."

What do you think about the issue? Leave a comment and get some discussion started with your fellow grocers.


-6 #19 Larry Elias 2015-01-23 16:37
Thanks for your insightful and educational articles. Farmers and producers who make a career out of working with animals have a much better understanding of the animals than those who think of animals as "morally significant individuals with rights."
+1 #18 Jessica Howe 2015-01-21 00:00
The fact that the sows bite the crates shows they are in deep distress
0 #17 Nancy Poznak 2015-01-13 18:10
The problem starts with making an animal a commodity; it's worth is reduced to its' financial worth. The entire system of animal agriculture is based upon making animals into commodities. The moment and animal becomes a commodity it loses its freedom and is ultimately put into harm's way. Methods of raising pigs which allow them some freedom of movement do exist, and can be cost-effective. However, atrocities are still committed against pigs (an all commercial animals): castration, tail docking, ear punctures - all with no pain relief. Piglets not performing well are brutally killed. How do you get a pig out of the gestation crate when sending to slaughter? Do you tickle her belly? Do you gently find ways to hoist her up because she cannot walk after being imprisoned for months, or years? For those who consider it "normal and acceptable' to kill animals for food, would YOU be able to slit the animal's throat, watch the blood and life leave their body, look into its eyes and still feel this process 'normal and acceptable'?
0 #16 Jean 2015-01-08 18:09
my parents in law fed pigs in their village many years ago. It's not a big room, but definitely they can turn and walk for a few steps. Look at the environment now, to make more money, what did people do to pig, chickens,cows. A lot of people talked about food safety, but the root of all the the problem is human's moral standard dropped so quickly in this few decades, it's not only the problems of the farmer. That is the issue of the whole world I believe. eve rybody need to improve yourself from the inner, that the way to change the world.
0 #15 M. Graham 2014-12-25 13:28
Gestation crates are unbelievably inhumane. Imagine yourself living in a crate so small that you cannot even turn around, and being continually impregnated. Pigs are incredibly smart and sensitive animals. These are LIVING BEINGS we are talking about here. This is about nothing but profit. Period. Factory "farm" pig "farmers" can spin all the narratives they want to try to excuse this abomination against creation, but the bottom line is that this treatment of God's creatures is nothing but evil. And for those of you who support this abomination against innocent creatures, and believe in God, you're really kidding yourselves if you think you are not going to pay for this. If Americans had even the smallest bit of a conscience, they would simply boycott the entire industry. But we are a nation of people so bereft of any moral compass, and so sold to the god of profit, that we will lie ourselves into the inferno rather than face the truth of our own complicity in this inconceivable violence against living beings, whose cries in the vacuum of our collective deafness go unheard.
-1 #14 Nancy S Poznak 2014-12-03 03:04
The intelligence of pigs is well-documented by scientists who study them. They are now known to be among the top four most intelligent nonhuman species. Read this article: http://modernfarmer.com/2014/03/pigheaded-smart-swine/ - not that you need to as you are most likely aware of how smart they are. I have seen many pictures and videos of sows in gestation crates. They obviously suffer. One does not have to be a veterinarian or farmer to see this. Only an idiot would deny the fact they suffer. The reason sows' aggression becomes a problem is because they have been placed into a completely unnatural environment. Pig farming must change and become far more kind to the pigs if it wants to stay in business.
+2 #13 Lemony Crickets 2014-11-21 00:00
Ah yes, how can any of us fools know better than a farmer about how to raise his animals for breeding or slaughter. We should have no say whatsoever and farmers should be able to do whatever they want with their livestock. I notice that there are no pictures or videos of pigs in these crates. I have seen video of these things and my common sense tells me that they are inhumane. The pig cannot lay down or turn around, and it cannot tell you just how bad it is. This goes on for most of the gestation period. All you need to do is look at video of pigs in these things and unless you have no sense of decency it becomes clear just how awful it is.
+4 #12 HS 2014-11-20 00:00
Don't the dividers just need to be larger to allow the pigs to move and stretch and turn? Or perhaps separate the pigs into small manageable groups of 3 or 8 or whatever. Regardless, jamming them in a small box is just horrible.
+2 #11 BobC 2014-11-12 05:02
This is a very informative article with interesting comments. My reactions are: 1) Pigs, especially pregnant and nursing sows, are aggressive and potentially dangerous animals; dangerous to their handlers as well as to other pigs, including their piglets; 2) Pigs may be sentient but how much and in what ways is not known and has not been measured to date, so the assumption of sentience is largely faith not science; 3) Sows kept in crates meeting accepted standards show no objective adverse effects; confinment in gestation crates is primarily to protect the sow; benefits to farmers and consumers is secondary; 4) those advocating interdiction of gestation crate confinement need to present reproducible scientific data to support their position; I'm not aware of any such data, and emotional appeals won't do.
+5 #10 Sabrina 2014-11-06 00:14
Every argument basically explains how crates benefit the farmers.... If pigs are better off on this confinement (which anyone with any sense, knows is untrue) then why can't these farmers simply allow the sows enough room to turn around?!? Carnivores and vegetarians alike believe this is a cruel and inhumane practice. I applaud everyone who sees the truth of the situation and is lending their voice to this issue!!!

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