The pork sector was abuzz late on Tuesday with hints of a Mercy for Animals (MFA) undercover video focusing on pork production, along with a campaign to pressure two major retailers to abandoned pork that could be traced back to gestation-sow stalls.
“It is our understanding there will be a video released at 11:00 a.m. (CDT) Wednesday from Mercy For Animals,” Cindy Cunningham, National Pork Board assistant vice president of communications, told Pork Network late on Tuesday.”It appears to attack several major retailers and focus on a Minnesota farm.”
While not officially released to the public, the videos were accessible on Tuesday at the web links http://walmartcruelty.com/ and http://www.costcocruelty.com/. Both videos featured Bob Barker, game-show host and well-known animal activist, as the narrator. He tells the viewer he is “providing an important consumer warning about pork sold at” Costco or Wal-Mart—the retailers were interchangeable in the messages.
The targeted pork producer is Christensen Farms, based in Sleepy Eye, Minn., as a pork supplier to the two retailers. The production site is reported to be near Hanska, Minn. However, running 4:14-minutes, the video’s emphasis was placed on gestation-sow stalls, piglet castrations and tail docking, euthanasia and “many standard pork industry practices…”
Barker encouraged viewers to “Please join me in calling on Costco (Walmart) to ditch pork from suppliers who confine pigs in cruel gestation crates.” The web links outlined messaging steps for viewers to take along with contact information for executives for Costco and Wal-Mart. Barker is reported to be joining MFA at the Wednesday press confrerence in Los Angeles, which is now expected to focus on Wal-Mart as Costco has taken a stand.
Early Tuesday evening, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) released an announcement citing a letter that Costco sent its pork suppliers, asking them to phase out the use of the crates by 2022.
“We want all of the hogs throughout our pork supply chain to be housed in groups…and expect that this transition should be accomplished no later than 2022,” wrote Doug Schutt, Costco’s executive vice president of merchandising. “All of us at Costco take animal welfare seriously and consider humane animal handling a business imperative.”
HSUS said it “welcomes the announcement by Costco”—the nation’s second-largest food retailer for its action. The activist group points out that Costco’s decision follows discussions with MFA about its undercover video involving a Costco supplier, as well as discussions with HSUS.
As of Tuesday night, Wal-Mart had not released a statement regarding the MFA video, the targeted campaign or its position on pork suppliers and gestation stalls.
In a proactive move regarding the MFA undercover video, the Center for Food Integrity (CFI) pulled in its Animal Care Review Panel, a panel of animal well-being experts, created to analyze undercover video investigations at livestock farms. The panel’s reaction to what they saw from the video clip-- "Overall, these animals were well taken care of. There were no signs of animal cruelty, abuse or neglect. The sows were clean, free of lesions, calm and in good condition." For more details on the panel’s response, click here.
Pork Network was unable to secure a statement from Christensen Farms. The Minnesota Pork Producers Association offered a statement, which is available here.