Just 24 hours after Smithfield Foods – the world’s largest pork producer – launched its new corporate responsibility website, the Humane Society of the United States filed a complaint with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. HSUS is alleging that Smithfield is making false and misleading claims to shareholders and consumers about its corporate responsibility practices in violation of federal securities law.
According to HSUS’ complaint, the claims made in a video series titled Taking the Mystery out of Pork Production falsely convey that Smithfield has higher animal welfare and environmental standards than it actually does. The complaint further alleges that the videos are deceptive in their depiction of Smithfield’s use of antibiotics in animal feed.
Federal securities law prohibits “the making of any false statement of a material fact or the omission of a material fact that would prevent a statement from being misleading.”
“Smithfield’s attempt to mislead its shareholders about animal welfare adds insult to the injuries inflicted daily on the animals confined in its facilities,” says Jonathan Lovvorn, HSUS senior vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation. “Smithfield cannot shirk its responsibility to stakeholders and animals by simply offering false claims about providing ‘ideal’ living conditions.”
HSUS points specifically to Smithfield comments in the video that it provides animals with “ideal” living conditions and that the company’s animals’ “every need is met.” HSUS argues that because “the vast majority of its breeding sows are confined in gestation crates — metal cages that virtually immobilize animals for nearly their entire lives,” that Smithfield could not be meeting the animals’ needs.
The animal rights' group also takes issue with Smithfield because it “routinely castrates animals and cuts portions of their tails and teeth off without painkiller.”
You can review HSUS’ complete legal complaint here.