Op-ed: Jane Velez-Mitchell – Get rid of gestation crates NOW
June 7th, 2012
01:00 PM ET
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Jane Velez-Mitchell is the author of 'iWant: My Journey from Addiction and Overconsumption to a Simpler, Honest Life' and 'Secrets Can Be Murder: The Killer Next Door' as well as 'Addict Nation: An Intervention for America'. She hosts the Jane Velez-Mitchell show nightly on HLN at 7p ET.

McDonald's says it’s phasing out pig gestation crates. When I heard that news, I almost started crying. I was so grateful because I have witnessed the horror. One look at a pig gestation crate and you will know exactly what I mean.

A breeding sow spends most of her life in a tiny cage. It’s usually about seven feet long and two feet wide. She cannot turn around. She cannot scratch herself. She must urinate and defecate where she stands. Simply put, I believe she is tortured, day in and day out.

By “she” I mean the almost six million breeding pigs that as you read this, are stacked in giant warehouses unable to see the light of day. Each female pig is surrounded by thousands of other sows, screeching their wretchedness. It’s obscene. It’s shameful. It’s un-American. It gives me nightmares. Literally.


Clarified – What are gestation crates?

So, I was thrilled and filled with hope when I heard that headline that the company synonymous with fast food was committing to only buy pork from farmers that do not use gestation crates.

But, then, I heard “by 2022.”

I felt hoodwinked. I felt angry. If you know something is morally reprehensible then it is your moral obligation to stop it as soon as possible. If you see a child who is being kept in abusive conditions you don’t say, “Hey, I’ll be back in a decade and get you out of this jam.” You do something immediately.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, studies show pigs are more intelligent than dogs and even some primates. Scientists have shown that pigs are capable of playing simple video games, learning from each other, and even learning names.

I believe McDonald's, and all the other companies who are prolonging the process of ending this institutionalized torture, are foot-dragging despite the pleas of American consumers who are decent people and don’t want to co-sign or subsidize this incomprehensible cruelty.

To quote Paul Shapiro, HSUS Vice President of Farm Animal Protection, “Forcing a 500-pound, social, intelligent creature to live 24/7 in a cage barely larger than her body is simply cruel and inhumane. These animals are essentially immobilized and lined up like parked cars for months on end.”

Legendary animal welfare scientist Dr. Temple Grandin says, “We’ve got to treat animals right, and gestation stalls have got to go.” The Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production - which was funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts and Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, and included the former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture - recommends all systems that "restrict natural movement,” including gestation crates, be phased-out.

And I say, end them now. NOW!

To those who rationalize, “Well, these crates are economically efficient and ending this system is going to drive the price of pork up,” I say: not so fast.

Pigs in gestation crates are much more likely to get sick. A Humane Society report on gestation crates issued just this month said, “Housing the sows directly above their own excrement has been shown to expose the animals to aversively high levels of ammonia, and respiratory disease has been found to be a significant health issue for pigs kept in confinement.”

The report, based on a study conducted by Donald Broom, professor of Animal Welfare at the University of Cambridge and Jeremy Marchant-Forde, now a research animal scientist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, delivers a litany of foot and leg disorders, body sores, urinary tract infections, cardiovascular problems and traumatic injury caused by being forced to stand and lie on a tiny rectangle of unnatural flooring often covered with residual feces and urine.

The alternative “group housing,” allows pigs greater freedom of movement. Iowa State University conducted a two-and-a-half year long economic analysis of the issue and found that that a group housing solution resulted in a weaned pig cost that was 11 percent less than the cost of a weaned pig from the individual stall confinement system.

It’s time to get real about the real costs of factory farming and its attendant cruelties. The United States, by far the world’s biggest meat consumers, is in the throes of an obesity crisis driven, I believe, by the availability of cheap meat via fast food.

That obesity crisis is driving up the cost of health care and health care is a key factor in our government’s current struggle to get a grip on the nation’s ballooning deficit. If treating our fellow creatures with just a sliver of decency during the process of raising them to be killed costs a tad more, be assured there will be plenty of positive repercussions.

The factory farm industry has gone to tremendous lengths to try to keep the secret of pig gestation crates from the American public. But, thanks to the work of the HSUS, Farm Sanctuary, Mercy for Animals and PETA, the secret is out.

Americans have gotten a glimpse of this hidden horror and want it to stop. Not in 2022. Now.

Read - Clarified: What are gestation crates? and Food safety doesn't end with S.510 and A day two pigs would die



soundoff (218 Responses)
  1. margie Santoro

    THANK YOU Jane for what you do to help animals. Continue the good work you do !!!! No animal should suffer abuse . The animal lovers in the world want to help let us know what we can do.

    May 12, 2013 at 10:58 pm |
    • Katherine Sloan

      You are so right! I love animals too and that is why I am vegan. Thank you for caring!

      March 13, 2014 at 12:15 am |
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