Expanding pork production’s insights and realities

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Last week’s release of “A Pig’s Tale” by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has drawn significant attention. The four-minute animated video is directed at children, parents and educators. The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) offers some perspective on the realities of pork production today.

Beyond attributing human qualities to pigs, NPPC says what is most disturbing about the video is that its approach toward people is de-humanizing, “especially toward the people who spend their lives caring for the animals every day.”

NPPC goes on to say, “the truth is that farmers and ranchers of all sizes are committed to the humane treatment of their animals. They care deeply about their animals and take pride in them. Well cared for animals, under the guidance of veterinarians, are paramount to a safe and healthy food supply, and farmers and ranchers use a variety of animal husbandry practices, housing strategies and health care to decrease disease risk and promote animal health. The bottom line is that today’s farm animals live healthier lives than ever before.”

National Pork Board (NPB) Director of Swine Welfare Sherrie Niekamp and Tom Burkgren, DVM, executive director for the American Association of Swine Veterinarians (AASV) offer the following perspectives about on-farm practices illustrated in the film.

Animal Behavior Indoors vs. Outdoors – “Where a pig can be a pig”: The argument that pigs can only express their natural behaviors outdoors is not true. It is limited indoors based on what elements are provided in the pig’s environment. There also are some aspects of “a pig being a pig” that are prevented with indoor housing such as predation, exposure to weather extremes, and exposure to diseases and parasites.

Tail docking-Tail biting: The video oversimplifies the cause of tail biting and the need for tail docking. Tail biting behavior is undesirable because it causes pain and fear to the recipient and creates an open wound that can lead to severe infections in the tail and spine. Occurrences of tail biting behavior are complex and have been associated with numerous factors, including but not limited to nutrition, space, air quality, ventilation type, flooring type or sudden changes in the environment. Tail biting also has been documented in outdoor housing systems.

When in a group, pigs will often nibble on each other’s tails as a way to explore their environment. By docking the tails of piglets when they are just a few days old, farmers can prevent potential infections that could spread throughout the herd and even result in death. Keep in mind tail docking is done early in a pig’s life, quickly and according to veterinarian guidelines.

Gestations Stalls and Weaning: The video leaves the impression that all female pigs stay in metal crates throughout their lives to become breeding sows. In fact, when pigs are weaned – regardless of sex – they live in group pens until they reach market weight, at which time they are sent to market. A small percentage of gilts are selected to return to the breeding herd. These gilts remain in group pens until they reach puberty and begin showing estrus, which they then enter the breeding herd and may be housed individually or in groups.

Weaning is a stressful time for sows and piglets, regardless of the housing system. After they are weaned, piglets are transported to a new location, grouped with other pigs and transitioned to a different type of diet. These changes create stress, but piglets quickly adapt and overcome.

Sows are returned to the breeding barn and undergo rapid hormonal changes that result in the end of lactation and the onset of the next estrus. Sows are weaned into individual stalls because sows become extremely aggressive as they undergo these hormonal changes especially if housed in groups.

Use of Electric Prod: Electric prods are not used on piglets and are rarely used on any pigs, possibly only when moving pigs in or out of a barn. Prods should never be used as the primary tool for moving pigs and should only be used as a last resort. If it is necessary to use a prod, the duration of the shock should not exceed one second. These are battery operated prods that would not have enough power to cause the reaction shown in the video.

NPPC offers these other resources that illustrate the realities of modern pork production:

  • Watch how farmers are using new technology to positively change how pigs are raised on farms today via this mini-documentary.
  • Hear Chef Jon Shook, talks about lessons learned during the Food Dialogues in Los

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Travis Dunekacke    
Elk Creek, NE  |  October, 29, 2012 at 12:17 PM

The large scale/corporate/total confinement pork industry will never win anything being on the defensive 24/7. Your defense is exhausted and needs to get off the field. Your opponents have more resources and a better message. Admit defeat & move on.

    
October, 29, 2012 at 01:56 PM

travis knows nothing about raising animals

Travis Dunekacke    
Elk Creek, NE  |  October, 29, 2012 at 02:38 PM

I my own hog farm in Southeast Nebraska. I own the hogs, the feed they eat, the water they drink, the bedding they sleep on, & the facilities they live in. It's my primary source of income. Call 402-335-0197 or tdpork@gmail.com to see for yourself!

Travis Dunekacke    
Elk Creek, NE  |  October, 29, 2012 at 02:45 PM

Please state your name & location if you're confident of my inability to raise livestock. Thank you.

maxine    
SD  |  November, 09, 2012 at 06:25 PM

Why would anyone who raises pigs for a living believe that other producers should simply allow the HSUS and other farm terrorists continue their false propaganda to the ill-informed public? I believe the lies need to be exposed. Isn't there a facility near Chicago to show people exactly how modern pig raising facilities are working? Are there any videos of that facility that would be a counter to the extremist one mentioned in the story? I don't raise pigs, but grew up on a farm where they were raised naturally, and it was not pretty when the sows either inadvertently smashed the piglets, or when the actually ate them, or when adult pigs fought and bullied weaker ones. My family did build a form of farrowing stall which helped the piglet problems. But better confinement systems would have improved efiiciency had they chosen to remain in that business.

Terry Ward    
Pa  |  November, 11, 2012 at 08:22 AM

Travis, that you for being what you are. Visiting your farm would be a delight. My grandparents were simple, plain ,unsophisticated Arkansas farmers. ALSO real farmers. They did not keep their livestock in metal cages or their chickens in sardine cans. They did not eat their horses or breed and peddle dogs like rabbits. They practiced real old-fashioned animal husbandry. I am unbelievably proud of my farming heritage. The Humane Society was not invented for people like my grandparents. Nor was it invented for my amazing modern and sustainable neighborhood REAL family farm.. http://tinyurl.com/b9fyfn3 So whomever is ranting, keep ranting that real farms are not possible. Keep caterwauling about the Humane Society. Keep denying reality. The more you rant the less people listen.

maxine    
SD  |  November, 13, 2012 at 08:47 PM

HSUS certainly WAS founded on NO ANIMALS AS FOOD or any other purpose.....and still has that as their end goal, WHILE enriching themselves through various means. They may play word games and do or say anthing necessary to reach those goals. Facts seems to simply mean that saying whatever is useful fto achieve their goals is a 'fact'.

maxine    
SD  |  November, 13, 2012 at 08:59 PM

Many of us have had ancestors who were just plain, good, caromg folks. They, too, cared deeply for their animals, cared for and housed them the best that they knew how and were able to afford, or build themselves with materials they could cut down and stack together, using the best knowledge available at the time. They, too, did not eat horses, UNLESS it was absolutely necessary to stay alive. They also did not DICTATE to others from other cultures what they could and could not eat as food! Isn't it ridiculous in this day, when people of other cultures, even some in our own nation, STILL eat, cats, dogs and other animals we would have diffulcty eating even if near starving, that we have the GALL to insist some people cannot eat horse meat????? Those same grandparents generally insisted that their children get all the education available, and today, Animal Husbandry is very different than it was even a couple of generations ago. Animal Science has studied WHY different systems of housing, diet, health, are BETTER for animals well being and health. The descendants of those early farmers are equally dedicated to the care of our animals, and CONTINUE to encourage education so that we may CONTINUE to produce the best tasting, safest, most nutritious food in the world here in the USA. All the while seeking ways to make farming and ranching profitable enough so that we may continue doing so into future generations of US farmers and ranchers. I do not apologize that we, the third generation on our ranch are striving to raise the best cattle, and the best of future generations, with Gen. 6 the newest addition to our family. We only pray that our government and other people trying to stop us fail!


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