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
Thank you so much for shedding light on this awful situation. While in my opinion no one should eat meat EVER, or dairy and eggs, these crates are just a horror show. Pigs are intelligent, loving, creatures with feelings and folks need to get some compassion and go VEGAN :)
Because you sound soooo compassionate.
Seriously, "Seriously," I don't believe you should be using words before you look them up in the dictionary, since obviously no one ever taught you proper use of the English language.
I agree completely with Patty: "Gestation crates are among the most egregious farming practices and it is high time for our country to do what all the other civilized countries have done and BAN THEM COMPLETELY! Pigs are smart, funny, and loving moms so they should be allowed to live lives that are natural to them and to have their babies with them, not separated by cold, hard steel cages. As Anthony Douglas Williams wrote- "Humans need to be humane for the sake of humanity!" Thank you, Jane V.M., for always shining a glaring spotlight on animal abuse!"
Holocaust for animals of any species; NO MORE!!!
How can we make these large, smart animals live in a tiny crate. Why are these companies dragging their feet. They don't need so much time to implement the changes as they have soooo much money. Anyway why would anyone want to eat an animal. It isn't geed for your health or theirs.
Better for mine than theirs. But really, what do you know about my health? Do you know people with Crohns disease or Ulcerative Colitis should stay away from high fiber foods? That being the case, and it unfortunately is the case, how do you expect these people to get protein? Are you simply uniformed when you say in a public forum that everyone should simply do what you want them to do, or are you being really really mean to other people?
Kudos to Jane for everything she does – for the passion she has – and for the lives of animals and people that she has changed with her influence.
Keep up the fantastic work Jane!!!
Thank you for bringing the horror of gestatuon crates into.the oublic eye. I hope there will be more exposes from CNN.
Gestation crates are among the most egregious farming practices and it is high time for our country to do what all the other civilized countries have done and BAN THEM COMPLETELY! Pigs are smart, funny, and loving moms so they should be allowed to live lives that are natural to them and to have their babies with them, not separated by cold, hard steel cages. As Anthony Douglas Williams wrote- "Humans need to be humane for the sake of humanity!" Thank you, Jane V.M., for always shining a glaring spotlight on animal abuse!
I too am proud to be a vegan, not just because it's healthier, but because I abhor cruelty to animals! Meat and dairy production destroys the planet, too. Thankfully, healthy and humane vegan foods tastes great.
Such an important issue for food safety and animal welfare.
I AM THE PROUDEST VEGETARIAN ON EARTH. and PETA RoCks!
The proudest vegetarian on earth??? That's saying a lot considering the endless trumpeting of one lifestyle as though it's the only lifestyle and the constant judgements by vegetarian about and against non-vegetarians. Most proudly judgemental people on earth, in my experience. And here you are saying you are the proudest! I'd like to meet you....... no I wouldn't.
Are you kidding me?!! Who the hell gave any human the right to impose our will on other living sentient beings. I'd like to know what it would take to wake people up to the simple consciousness of 'right and wrong'. Just because we were raised to eat animals by our parents and our society, does not mean we are powerless to at least TRY to live our lives on a higher level. If all else fails, just put yourself in the position of the pig or the cow or the chicken! At least be honest with yourself and say it's just too 'hard' to stop eating what you like to eat. But do acknowledge that you are not doing what is humane, fair or morally righteous. I'm still trying to improve upon my old ways. I know it is not easy for most of us to resist the bacon cheeseburgers on every corner. But, please don't be like the hunters who say they hunt for the good of the deer population... try a pinch of honesty. At least feel a twinge of guilt while you eat your ham sandwich.
That was me. I gave them the right.
Another tragic situation of 'abuse' and 'murder' exposed by Jane! Thank you.
Good use of quotes, Carol-e.
Great article, Jane! Thank you for speaking for the animals who are living miserable lives behind closed doors.
A very compassionate viewpoint backed by strong scientific evidence that ending gestation crates is the way to go – now. Once again Jane makes an excellent case for treating animals with respect.
Jane, thank you so much. Your article is so accurate and informative.
You're an amazing voice for these beautiful animals.
Jane, thank you so much. Your article is so accurate and informative.
You're an amazing voice for these beautiful animals. <3
What people need to realize is that transferring production methods like this can't simply be done overnight. It takes time and money to convert a barn, not to mention moving pigs in order to work, etc. I think that, for the most part, gestation crates will begin phasing out within the next few years. Not only this, but I find it interesting how dramatized some of the information is in this article. 1. You don't stack pigs. 2. That "screeching" is the natural noise a pig makes. To add to this, it is easy to see the kind of people who comment on here, never having any first hand exposure to agriculture in their lives, and don't realize at all what it takes to provide the country and world with food, fiber, and fuel.
@Kyle, what makes you so sure that none of these people has any first-hand exposure to agriculture? Just because they are morally outraged at agrifactory practices. Please, grow up. Just because you don't frequent these large, mass-production animal production houses does not mean you are not acquainted with agriculture. There's a big difference. These businesses would re-fit so fast it would make your head spin if there were a massive profitability advantage, it has little to do with feasibility. So let's mandate it, give them a year or hit them with massive fines. They have no soul, so you can only influence them through their pocketbook.
Kyle, I have an animal science degree and am a licensed veterinary technician. I have seen at close hand and worked with dogs, cats, rats, elephants, chimpanzees, horses, goats, sheep, hippos, lions, tigers, bears, chickens, turkeys, llamas, alpacas, wolves, and – oh, yes – pigs. The difference in my experience and that of a farmer is that I was never raising any animal to be turned into food. Pigs are amazingly lovable, funny, intelligent and curious – WHEN they are allowed space and freedom and have no fear of being abused or killed. Don't you dare say that none of us know what we're talking about. There are animals in this world who are not automatically "food", and there are plenty of people who love and respect them for their own intrinsic worth.
You must not be a Farm animal vet most domestic hog breeds are dangerous if left alone and free.
In nothern Indiana there was a mass release of some 100 sows with piglets back in the early 2000's. After about 6 months the sheriffs dept authorized homeowners in the local area that if they saw a hog to shoot it due to the danger they posed.
Secondly I myself will continue to use gestation crates they protect the piglets from being injured by the sow. However I must say that I have never seen any other hog farmer or myself keep their sows in the crates 24/7. I tend to keep the sows in the crates for about a week then start the weening process.
Thanks for explaining the 1 week limit. I can understand the need to protect the newborn piglets I will bet that there are many Greedy Bastard hog farmers who may not be as close to the "animalitarian" side you have adopted. But where are the piglets going after the crate? Where and how are the older-than-piglets raised? And how do you handle the aggressive hogs/sows?
Been on a few WI farms near Oshkosh,
Sssshhhhhhhhh. They don't want to hear that.
Thank you, Jane, for bringing the cruelty of gestation crates to light. All factory farming is cruel (which is why I went vegan after seeing PETA's "Meet Your Meat" video years ago), but some practices are especially horrific - and gestation crates are one of worst.
The thought of trapping the poor sow like some piece of farm equipment to be a nursing machine is such a perversion of the mother/child bond. No, thanks. I'll stick with the fakin' bacon!
I, too saw the meet your meat video. Wasn't a huge surprise. Didn't change my eating habits. But what would you think if I were constantly trying to tell you that your eating habits were horrible and you should eat what I like to eat and for the same reasons? Would you think I was a truly compassionate human being or would you think I was an arrogant, judgmental bore?
If you were trying to convince me to sink my teeth into a creature whose life had been wrenched from it while it struggled in terror, I'd think you were far, far worse than a crashing bore. Does the name Luka Magnotta ring a bell? You should friend him on Facebook.
Excellent covereage and good explanation to those unaware. We have been working with college campuses around the world to educate them of the many animal cruelties. Many are student groups who boycott their schools in efforts for the school systems to purchase local, farm friendly foods. Please continue to pursue these type of stories which have a major ripple effect on our earth and all of her inhabitants.
My best to you,
Jonathan David Lake
If I hadn't already stopped eating meat, the fact that pigs in gestation crates are forced to wallow in their own excrement–and then give birth in it–would be enough to put me off of pig flesh forever.
Preacher, meet the choir.
Go Jane Go!!!! Thanks for being the voice on this.
Big Agriculture profiteers want you to believe that there's nothing wrong with confining millions of pigs –highly intelligent animals –to entire lifetimes in crates so small they could double as coffins. It is hard to fathom how consumers could enjoy eating any animal product that resulted from such suffering.
I agree 100 percent, Jane. There is no excuse for keeping intelligent, social, feeling animals cooped up tighter than old shoes in a closet. If people insist on eating these animals, the least we should do is afford them space to turn around, a chance to breathe fresh air and feel the sun on their faces before we kill them. Of course, the kindest thing we can do for pigs, the earth, and our own health is to go vegan!
Thank you for opening people's eyes to this. I sincerely hope a large part of the reason this abuse continues is that many Americans remain unaware of how we treat sows and other farmed animals. Once consumers realize we're treating farmed animals like tools instead of sentient beings, they can start demanding change for this broken system.
thank you SO much for addressing this important issue! i love your show and you!
I too felt sick that the "phase-out" for gestation crates was going to be 10 years away. How many sows will live their entire lives in crates and die in misery in the next decade? If agribusiness needs help getting rid of the gestation crates I have a sledge hammer and I will make myself available at any time.
It is important to tell the TRUTH. People need to have the proper information in order to make their decisions. I think we should realize more that we are all connected. The lack of compassion and decency on how these animals are treated for profit is outrageous. Thank you CNN for getting the word out.
Heck, you should see how my boss treats people. We're put in tiny cells and forced to stare straight ahead performing physical functions that cause tendonitis and repetitive motion injuries for 45 years while we slowly go blind from staring into a light source all day. And FOR PROFIT! Actually I work for a non-profit, but you get the idea.
You have a choice. they don't.
Thank you Jane for caring and shedding more light on the horrifying treatment of these highly intelligent, social beings. Sow stalls / gestation crates need to go NOW!!! GO VEGAN!!!
The way we raise animals in our world is killing our planet. Meat and agribusiness is the largest contributor to greenhouse gases, causing climate change. The better animals are treated, the less stress and pollution it causes. This is a positive step toward that and if people choose to eat less meat and more vegetables and fruits (hello, we are herbivorous animals), the better for people, animals, and the planet.
I agree about the dispicable way our livestock is treated, but it IS NOT causing "climate change"! That is ABSURD! And by the way, humans are and have always been "OMNIVORES"!
Quiet!! They don't want to hear that. Just be quiet!
Many meat-eating people do not realize (or choose to ignore) the suffering of the animals used in food production. More media attention needs to be brought upon the cruelties of the slaughterhouse industry, as well as the medical and environmental benefits of vegetarianism/veganism. Remember that even cutting back on your daily meat intake makes a difference in your life, the lives of animals, and the lives of all the beings on this planet! Thank you for this article.
Realize it. Seen it. Not a problem.
Not only is it a problem, you are the bigger one.
Thank you for sticking up for our innocent animal friends! <3 Vegan love forever.
Innocent animal friends. Uh huh.
How sad Seriously that you've never known the unconditional love that only can come from the bonds we forge with the four-legged magical creatures who grace our lives. No wonder you have such bitterness and misery oozing from every post. You should try it, it might not be too late for you yet.
I love that there would be concern of cancer causing food rising in price. What an uproar to have to pay more for non-essential unhealthy food! I protest this! he he
Thank you so much for your thoughtful and humane analysis of this reprehensible practice. Gestation crates should be stopped immediately – no sentient being should be submitted to this kind of torture.
Until the public realizes where their food comes from, how it is produced, and the subsidizing of corporate farming resulting from PACs paying off our government representatives not much is going to change. The majority of people live in a urban environment and dont really care where their food comes from as long as it is available in its plastic wrapped package or cartons in the store. They cant even tell you what cuts come from what part of an animal. Corporate farming is driven by demand and to supply that demand animals have to be produced and raised that way to meet that demand. Most pigs produced today dont ever touch real dirt and if they did would probably die from disease as they have been genectically engineered to produce lean meat which has compromised their immune systems and they are fed feed which has come from GMO seed. Becoming a vegetarian is not necessarily the solution, but changing policy is.
Because if we only knew what you know we would do exactly as you do. Is there any more judgmental, self-righteous person that a vegan?
I'm horrified! I agree, Jane – get rid of gestation crates NOW! How can we call ourselves civilzed and still use such cruel devices on living creatures? Who invented these crates anyway? Dr. Josef Mengele? This is a truly sad footnote in the history of human'kind'. No sentient being should ever have to "live" in such shameful and cruel conditions. The more I learn about the workings of the food industry, the more disgusted I am.
Thank you so much for covering this incredibly important animal welfare issue.
Horrible, Horrible that any living thing would be put in a gestation crate. Makes me SICK! I'm totally against it and it needs stopped now!!
Thank you for speaking up for pigs, Ms. Velez-Mitchell. I haven't eaten bacon since I watched the video at MeatVideo.com. It's so great to see Kroger, McDonald's, Burger King, Safeway, and many other companies pledging to move away from gestation crates. The sooner these inhumane crates are done away with, the better!
Thank you Julie! Everyone should watch this and get a sense of where their food is coming from. I know it shocked me.
Thank you Jane, for always covering factory farming issues so thoroughly. Gestation crates are, by almost any measure, on the way out, and I say good riddance–they are one of the most cruel devices ever developed by the agricultural, or any other, industry. The pork industry likes to talk about "science" and "efficiency," but people are beginning to realize some important things: ethics cannot be completely boiled down to science; some things are simply wrong (like confining a sentient animal in place for months on end); we're also beginning to realize that the very confinement processes that create "efficiency" in the meat market are also at the root of all the many problems associated with factory farming–confinement requires antibiotics (which endangers human health), creates massive amounts of waste (waste that, in the old days, would be diffuse but is now confined to very small spaces), and is inherently cruel to animals.
Thank you Jane, and keep up the good work shining a spotlight on the American food supply!
Thanks for some insight into how our meat is being produced! I'll definitely be doing my research
Thank you for this excellent article. Factory farm animal confinement is a huge problem, and I appreciate you addressing it.
I agree wholeheartedly with Ms. Velez-Mitchell. They should be banned NOW. (Even better, leave meat off entirely. I never saw myself going in that direction until one year ago, when I saw numerous videos that outlined "standard animal industry practices." I was done and suspect many others would be done as well if they knew what they animals they consumed actually went through.)
Thank you, CNN, for addressing these important issues! I hope we'll be hearing more!
Awesome article!! Dead on!! I felt the same way.. WHY NOT NOW?? The analogy you gave regarding abused child, hits the nail on the head. When we know there is torture, pain, and suffering, WHY WON"T YOU STOP IT NOW??.. It just blows my mind...2022...It breaks my heart to think how we treat these innocent, and intelligent animals.. Shame on US!!! Jane Velez-Mitchell, thanks for bringing this attention to common man!! We all deserve to know what is killing us, killing the planet, and killing animals...
Hogs – Children. Same same.
If there is any hope for our country, it lies in messages like this. If we can work "peaceful" living into our world, everyone will benefit. Thank you, Jane Valez for your leadership
Thank so much. I saw this from the Humane Society of US a few weeks ago. Makes me ill to think that this can even happen. Please keep this in the public. No animal needs to be treat this way.
This is fantastic. Go Jane Velez-Mitchel!!!! We love your work!!!
hahaha! You can probably live on an all bacon diet... you should try it.. wow.
I said it before and I will say it again. If you choose to eat meat, you should treat the animal you are going to consume with great respect. They are giving their lives for you. Meat in moderation is fine. If we all followed that, we would not need to mistreat any animal at all.
Excuse me, but the animals do not "give" their lives. Their lives are TAKEN from them, brutally and unnecessarily. An important distinction.
Apparently some of the tastiest animals are human. I think I've got your next meal planned for you, Seriously...it does seem to be catching on these days, must be some truth to it.
I never heard any Dr tell a heart patient to cut back on veggies and grains because they are clogging your arteries !???
Was that a statement or a question? Or an illegal use of punctuation?
"Meat is good, grains and carbs are not" – I have to admit, I laughed out loud when I read that. It depends on what types of grains, but typically whole grains are better for you than meat. It's truly amazing how misled some people are about nutrition...
We're all misled. Unless we think exactly as you do we're all misled. Or stupid. Or cruel. How about evil? Let's all think alike. What do you think we should think?
As a huge bacon lover, this is still good news. The better we treat our food, the better it is for us.
And its not cheap meat via fast food that is the problem, its subsidized grains that is the problem. Meat is good for humans, grains and carbs are not.
Matt your facts are all wrong.. Meat is good huh?? So you tell me what clogs our arteries animal fat or barley? You have ALOT Of learning to do. the govt subsidizes the meat industry more than any other AND if 90% of our corn and soy goes to feed the livestock can you imagine, even if your math was correct, that it is actually going TO the meat industry for feed. HOw does it make sense to you that it takes 19 times the resources to produce food for you so you eat from social and traditional convenience and habits? Do you r homework and be a responisble human being.. VEGETABLE DIET ONLY
Ripp ... anything in moderation is OK. Barley, which you used as an example, is made into beer. Alcoholics drink beer, so does that mean all beer is bad?
And perhaps you should do some research before spewing alleged facts.
About 37 percent of U.S. corn goes into animal feed, according to the Department of Agriculture.
ABout 54 percent of U.S. soybeans are crushed to make oil and meal. From that, about 39.8 million tons of meal are made. Of that, 78 percent is used domestically, which is to say in everything from industrial uses to animal feed. So AT BEST you could say that 22 percent of U.S. soybean meal MAY be used domestically including in animal feed. And that's if everybody bit of soybean meal went into feed. And even then, that's just the MEAL from the soybean, not the soybean itself.
So given your misinformation when you say "90 percent of our corn and soy goes to livestock" then how or why would anybody in their right mind who actually cares about facts believe you, especially when you say "Do your homework."
I'm not a hog guy and I am may not agree with gestation crates but it's people like you who DONT do their homework and make up statistics that make it easy for people on the other side of the debate to validate their arguments.
Ripp, You may want to "ease-up" on the all vegie diatribe! According to studies at the Mayo Clinic, Plant based fat and oil is just as likely to contribute to atherosclerosis as animal fat! In general, a vegetarian diet is usually healthier, but you must be very careful about what kinds of carbs, fat and protein you base your diet upon! Everything in moderation...
Ripp doesn't want to hear that.
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