Imagine spending your life crammed into a space about as big as an airline seat.
Imagine not being able to turn around, to roll over, or to stretch your limbs comfortably.
Imagine being so frustrated and stressed by being forced to live like this that you bite the bars of your cage (because that's the only thing you can get to) until your mouth bleeds.
Imagine the suffering...
For millions of pigs in gestation crates, this is not make-believe. It's how they are forced to spend most of their lives, day in, and day out, for months at a time.
As you may already know, gestation crates are intensive confinement systems used in hog farming. They're used to restrain a pregnant sow until she gives birth. Gestation crates typically measure 2 x 6.6 feet, barely larger than the sow.
Since the purpose of a factory farm sow is to produce litter after litter, as often as possible, this is where she will spend most of her life -- until the final few months when she is fattened for the walk to the slaughterhouse floor.
Agricultural industry groups attempt to defend the cruelty of gestation crates by claiming that they are superior to group housing. But the research does not support their point of view. In fact, agricultural expert Temple Grandin unambiguously rejects gestation crates:
We've got to treat animals right, and gestation stalls have got to go... Confining an animal for most of its life in a box in which it is not able to turn around does not provide a decent life.
In industrial agriculture, profit is paramount. Factory farmers prefer gestation crates because they are cheaper and easier to work with than alternative methods, such as group housing. The well-being of the sow is only a concern insofar as keeping the animal alive, and the psychological and physical trauma is irrelevant, as long as the meat is marketable.
Yet consumer sentiment is firmly against gestation crates. Two thirds of California voters chose to ban intensive confinement systems. And voters have gotten their representatives to ban gestation crates in Florida, Arizona, Colorado, Maine, Michigan, Rhode Island, Oregon, and Ohio.
And, more and more, retailers and wholesalers are listening. Hundreds of food product producers and food buyers are eliminating gestation crates from their supply chains, including ConAgra, Aramark, Costco, Sysco, Sodexo, Safeway, Kroger, Target, Applebee's, IHOP, General Mills, Kraft Foods, Campbell Soup Co., Hillshire Farms, Jack in the Box, McDonald's, Denny's, and many more. In April of 2013, every leading Canadian retailer signed onto an agreement to eliminate gestation crates.
Even companies that once paid Richard Berman to shill for them are paying attention. Former Berman financer, Wendy's, is abandoning gestation crates and moving to more humane production methods.
But Big Ag is not listening.
Big Ag, stubbornly resistant to the winds of change, wants to cling to outmoded, inhumane methods of production in the face of impending reforms. They refuse to even try to change. Instead, they plan to change the way we think about the suffering of sows in gestation crates. How?
By reframing the issue. By putting lipstick on a tortured pig.
Richard Berman has been spending a great deal of time with pork producers, urging them to rally the troops and defend against animal welfare. The first phase of Berman's strategy is a campaign to whitewash the cruelty of gestation crates, starting with the name. He suggests "maternity pens," a warm and fuzzy name for a decidedly cold, harsh practice.
The goal is to frame gestation crates as loving, nurturing environments, and to downplay the reality of pressure sores and bloody concrete.
It is, in a word, hogwash.
You can stop him. When you see the misleading term "maternity pens", make sure everyone reading understands who is behind the propaganda, and what it defends: the cruel, lifelong confinement of sensitive and intelligent animals in a claustrophobic cage.
Berman's campaigns rely on ignorance to spread. Counter them with the facts.
For more on gestation crates:
- Animal Visuals: Virtual Gestation Crate
- HSUS: Undercover Investigation Documents Pig Abuse at Tyson Supplier
[WARNING: graphic video]
- Mercy For Animals: Concealed Cruelty - Pork Industry Animal Abuse Exposed
[WARNING: graphic video]
- Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production: Phase out Intensive Confinement
- CNN: What are gestation crates?
- White Paper: Welfare Issues with Gestation Crates for Pregnant Sows
- HSUS: Timeline of Major Farm Animal Protection Advancements
After evaluating Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) tax returns, Charity Navigator has taken the extraordinary step of issuing a Donor Advisory. The Donor Advisory states that "the majority of the Center for Consumer Freedom's program expenses are being directed to its CEO Richard Berman's for-profit management company, Berman and Company."
As readers of this site and our Facebook page know, Richard Berman is also the mastermind behind the anti-animal welfare group, HumaneWatch. Charity Navigator has something to say about HumaneWatch, too:
...out of total program expenses of $2.4 million, $1.7 million is going directly to Berman and Company. The document (IRS Form 990) also revealed that program expenses were for 'maintaining a dynamic website' and 'founding humanewatch.org' when all of the money was given to Berman and Company (a for-profit firm). The document does not reveal how much revenue the for-profit gained from this arrangement.
The Donor Advisory then warns prospective donors:
We find such practices atypical as compared to how other charities operate and have therefore issued this Donor Advisory.
The CCF joins other questionable charities spotlighted by Charity Navigator for their conduct. These shady organizations include the "Coalition for Breast Cancer" (whose directors pleaded guilty to grand larceny, scheming to defraud and falsifying business records), "Disabled American Veterans" (a fake charity whose creator was sentenced to 10 years in prison for felony embezzlement), and Child Foundation (whose founder plead guilty to federal conspiracy charges).
The CCF has yet to face criminal charges for funneling nonprofit funds to its for-profit counterparts. However, this Donor Advisory may serve to protect unwary donors who might be deceived by unscrupulous front groups posing as legitimate charities.
Bloomberg News has issued a report into the potentially criminal activities of Berman and Company, Inc. and its nonprofit front groups. The report highlights Berman's legal troubles and questionable activities.
Berman, unsurprisingly, had no comment.
Read the full article at Bloomberg.com.