Appalling Sanitation and Animal Welfare Issues at World’s Largest Pig Slaughterhouse

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3 min read

Smithfield Foods has been on our radar for a long time—as the world’s largest killer of pigs, its despicable murder houses continue to profit from cruelty year after year. Last year, brave pig defenders rescued dying piglets and documented the deplorable conditions on a Smithfield farm, and just this month, we celebrated the shutdown of the company’s infamous Farmer John killing plant outside Los Angeles. Now PETA has jaw-dropping horrors to reveal about Smithfield’s Tar Heel, North Carolina, slaughterhouse, after reviewing a whopping 273 pages of reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which inspectors of the facility wrote in just one year.

At the Tar Heel facility, the largest pig slaughterhouse in the world, workers kill up to 36,000 pigs in a single day. The sanitation and animal welfare violations in FSIS’ reports between December 2021 and December 2022 would make anyone sick:

  • An inspector discovered feces of various colors and consistencies, “unidentifiable foreign material,” and wood chips on pigs’ body parts that were going to be sold for human consumption. In some cases, workers simply trimmed the feces off the meat.
  • Hydraulic fluid leaked onto two dead pigs in a cooler, an unidentified liquid dripped from a pipe directly onto ribs on a conveyor belt, and welding sparks landed directly on pig kidneys intended for human consumption.
  • Employees of the slaughterhouse entered the bathroom without removing the smocks and gloves they wore while cutting apart pig corpses.
  • An FSIS inspector found roaches in the facility twice, and it’s impossible to know how many have gone undiscovered. In one instance, an inspector saw “numerous” roaches along a 50- to 60-foot span along a wall, and in the other, an inspector noted that “no one was addressing” roaches on a wall.
  • Boxes of rancid, foul-smelling, slimy meat were found rotting inside the facility.
  • Cleaning routines were “inadequate to nonexistent,” and inspectors often documented that “fat particles” and other matter from the previous day’s butchering were left on equipment.
  • Meat was dropped on the contaminated floor, picked up, and returned to processing.

In addition to these stomach-turning findings, conditions for live pigs at the slaughterhouse were horrific. In August 2022, a worker was caught trying to force three pigs who couldn’t walk—and two others with porcine stress syndrome, a debilitating disorder—toward a gas killing chamber, in violation of federal regulations. In May of that year, workers similarly attempted to force a pig with porcine stress syndrome, who was trembling, panting, and sitting down, into the facility to be killed. It’s worth noting that Smithfield’s use of gas chambers to stun pigs forces them to endure their last minutes suffocating in extreme pain, thrashing around and screaming, desperate to escape.

On October 31, 2022, an inspector found several pigs piled on top of one another in a truck and watched as many of them “slid and fell down” a ramp while workers offloaded them. Pigs already suffer tremendously in transport: According to a 2006 industry report, more than 1 million pigs die each year from transport alone. This pile of bodies and the immense suffering it caused for the pigs were avoidable with an updated truck design. Inexplicably, only some of Smithfield’s transport fleet had been modified with the “upgrades.”

Help Pigs by Going Vegan Today

These disgusting stories from Smithfield’s Tar Heel slaughterhouse are especially disturbing, but many of their details ring true of every slaughterhouse. There’s no such thing as “humane meat.”

For animals’ well-being and your own health, the most powerful action you can take is to go vegan. Each person who goes vegan saves nearly 200 animals per year. PETA’s got your back with a free vegan starter kit, with tips and delicious recipes to help get you on your way.

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