As much as I attempt to ignore the ignoble methods used to supply meat to my table, I couldn’t help paying attention to the news story about sow gestation cages this morning. (image and information found here)
The majority of breeding sows (estimates of 80% in the USA) are kept in 2 x 7 foot gestation crates, which allow no room for a sow to turn around or move a step forward or backward. Throughout their pregnancy (~ four months), the sows are restrained in the crate, and are then moved to an equally restricted farrowing crate to give birth. A few weeks after birth, the piglets are removed (many of these animals are born with deformities), the sow is re-impregnated, and the cycle is repeated until the sow is deemed too inefficient and she is transferred for slaughter.
Pigs are considered to be more intelligent than dogs. The severe conditions of the gestation crates causes obsessive actions, such as: relentless head bobbing, biting at the bar of the cage, and ‘slam’ chewing (chewing at nothing).
The sows are treated like piglet-production robots, aligned in rows of metal gestation crates within massive warehouses with no natural lighting. An oppressive heat is produced by the animals, and giant fans are required to dissipate the toxic waste-fumes.
It is more economically efficient to produce pork products using gestation crates, but some grocery chains and restaurants have recently decided — possibly due to public pressure? — to opt away from products produced this way.
It is unfortunate that humans can become inured to the inhumane methods utilized to bring meat to our tables, and it is perhaps too easy to justify methods using economic modalities, but if we cannot afford to produce meat humanely and economically, isn’t it time to look for alternatives?