On the week before the United States’ Independence Day, U.S. pork producers rolled out a new ad campaign many find offensive. Sung to the tune of “America the Beautiful,” the jingle extols different cuts of pork that are so tasty “you’re gonna need a bib.” Satirizing a beloved U.S. anthem is not the only reason people are offended.
This week Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), an international grassroots network of animal rights activists, exposed shocking conditions at the Corcoran, CA-based Farmer John operation, one of California’s largest pig farms and a subsidiary of meat giant Hormel. The revelations include a piglet so sick it cannot avoid being eaten alive, other animal abuse and the use of dangerous antibiotics.
One antibiotic DxE says it found in use, carbadox, is so linked to cancer the FDA proposed removing it from the market. Also in use, claims DxE, are the antibiotics NeoMed 325 (neomycin), Gen-Gard (gentamicin), Pennchlor 64 (tetracycline) and Penicillin G Potassium, shockingly used in making products labeled “California Natural.”
Recently the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) also sought to expose Hormel practices. It filed a lawsuit calling Hormel’s “100% natural” claim on its meat products deceptive in light of the routine use of growth chemicals, antibiotics and preservatives.
It is no secret that pork sales have tanked. After a World Health Organization (WHO) report last year that outright declared processed and smoked meat a cause of cancer, many renounced bacon, ham and sausage. They also renounced hot dogs, a big part of the summer grilling season.
The WHO report came on the heels of an unprecedented pig disease epidemic in the U.S. In 2013 and 2014, at least one tenth of all U.S. pigs died, mostly piglets, from porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDv)-a disease pork producers say will likely never be gone in the U.S. By 2014, PEDv had killed at least 7 million piglets in their first days of life. The epidemic was so bad, a Kentucky farm tried feeding dead pigs to other pigs in a desperate attempt to induce “immunity,” the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) reported.
Pork producers managed to suppress all but a few stomach-turning photos of dumpsters full of the dead pigs going to the landfill but prices sharply rose even as the public recoiled at the idea of eating meat from diseased and dying animals. (Nor do people want to pay more for products they are wary of to begin with after the WHO cancer alert.)
Pork producers have only themselves to blame. PEDv studies find a higher risk of the disease in large industrial factory farming operations where animals are immobilized and injured or sick animals denied medical treatment. DxE reports finding feces-covered pigs with gashes and abscesses the size of tennis balls and pigs with untreated prolapses of the uterus, rectum and intestines at the Farmer John facility.
The pork industry is arguably one of the cruelest to animals. The accepted method of “euthanizing” piglets is “manually applied blunt force trauma to the head” also known as bashing their heads against wall, admits the American Veterinary Medical Association. Animals are also gassed. Abuse exposes at pig facilities surface regularly and there are few signs of reform.
As a cause of cancer and source of drugs like carbadox and ractopamine, pork is no one’s idea of a healthful food. And as a cause of relentless animal suffering, it is no one’s idea of an industry to be promoted with “America the Beautiful.”