Smithfield Foods, based in Smithfield, Virginia, kills almost 30 million pigs every year—more than any other company in the world. The way that Smithfield treats pigs, from birth to slaughter, could result in felony cruelty-to-animals charges if pigs were covered by the same laws that are designed to protect dogs and cats from abuse.
At Smithfield, female pigs endure constant cycles of forced pregnancy. Newborn piglets are taken from their mothers after just a few weeks. They have their teeth clipped in half, their tails cut off, and their ears mutilated, and the males have their testicles ripped out—all without any painkillers. All these practices should be illegal, but farmed animals are specifically exempt from the Animal Welfare Act, so almost anything goes at a Smithfield pig factory.
Smithfield manipulates pigs' genetics to make them grow more flesh than they naturally would, which causes many pigs to suffer painful joint problems. Smithfield also feeds animals large amounts of antibiotics to keep them alive in the filthy factory-farm conditions. Yet many animals die before they are fully grown (Smithfield sees it as just a cost of doing business). The survivors are often too sick to stand when they are forced onto the backs of trucks (often by being beaten and shocked with electric prods) and shipped to slaughterhouses through all weather extremes without food or water. Pork industry experts estimate that approximately 1 million pigs arrive for slaughter either crippled or already dead.
Smithfield has a horrible record of truck accidents that have resulted in enormous suffering for pigs. At the scene of two Smithfield truck accidents, PETA field officers tried to help the pigs, offering Smithfield veterinary care for the animals at PETA's expense. Both times, however, Smithfield representatives on the scene refused, apparently preferring to try to salvage profits instead of relieving the animals' suffering.
When they reach a Smithfield slaughterhouse, these terrified pigs—weakened from their long, frightening journey—are hung upside down and have their throats cut, sometimes while they are still conscious.
After years of pressure from PETA, the company announced that it would phase out the use of gestation crates in its operations, but less than three years later, it
went back on its commitment. Gestation crates are horrific metal-and-cement cages to which mother pigs are confined. The cages are so small that the pigs can't even turn around in them. These cruel devices are used throughout the pork industry.
Farmed animals aren't the only ones abused by Smithfield. In 2006, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that Smithfield was illegally firing, threatening, and even beating workers who asked for better working conditions and a small wage increase. A U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the board's ruling, condemning Smithfield's intimidation and abuse of employees.
Every year, billions of animals suffer at the hands of heartless companies such as Smithfield, Tyson, and KFC. You can save more than 100 animals every year from the horrors of factory farms, slaughterhouses, and commercial fishing trawlers by going vegetarian. Order our free "Vegetarian Starter Kit" today for recipes, shopping tips, and more.
Read a firsthand account from a former Smithfield slaughterhouse employee who contacted PETA.
Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.