According to the Sustainability and Stewardship report on Seaboard Farms’ website, the company is “committed to proper animal care and ha[s] a moral and ethical obligation to the humane treatment of animals.” This, unfortunately, is not what the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) found during their recent investigation of Seaboard’s pig breeding facilities in Goodwell, Oklahoma.
Last week, HSUS released video from their undercover investigation into Seaboard Farms, the nation’s fifth-largest pork producer and a supplier to Walmart. The film shows bleeding, maimed, and dead sows left alongside their neighbors in gestation crates—2 x 7 foot metal containers that pack animals close together and significantly limit their mobility. Investigators also found a number of gruesome and unsanitary practices not shown in the video, including animals with open, infected sores, crates overflowing with waste, and piglets that had splayed legs duct taped to their bodies.
Contrary to the evidence found by HSUS, Seaboard Farms asserts that it is committed to animal care and frequently checks on the wellbeing of its pigs: “We use the most humane practices throughout the animal's life. Not only is this the right thing to do, but it's scientifically proven to provide better pork quality.”
Given these statements, HSUS has filed complaints with the U.S. Securities and Exchange (USSE) and Federal Trade Commission, alleging that Seaboard is misleading customers and shareholders with the information it provides online. “It is a reasonable interpretation of these assertions…to conclude that Seaboard uses the most humane practices that currently exist in caring for animals, that it is a leader in humane animal care.” HSUS said in its petition to the USSE, “…yet, the claims are not reconcilable with the factual realities of Seaboard’s operations.”
These allegations of cruelty come just a few months after Mercy for Animals discovered inhumane treatment at Butterball’s turkey-raising facility in Shannon, North Carolina, and reported the abuse of egg-laying hens at Sparboe Farms’ facilities in Iowa, Minnesota and Colorado. In the case of Sparboe Farms, undercover footage caused both McDonald’s and Target stores to drop them as an egg supplier.
As noted by HSUS senior director of farm animal protection Paul Shapiro, these conditions are “simply out of step with mainstream American values about the proper treatment of animals.” No telling yet if HSUS’ findings will cause Walmart to end their relationship with Seaboard, but consumers certainly have the power to make a statement with their dollar.