October 24 was World Food Day! While the world celebrated World Food Day by bringing a global recognition to ending hunger, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) celebrated by posting an animated video entitled “A Pig’s Tail” on their website. This video is geared towards children. The video depicts what HSUS sees as hogs suffering on a “factory farm” (please note that there is no such thing as a “factory farm”, it is a family farm). While HSUS claims to be an advocate in animal welfare, there are many questions about what their animal welfare vision is. HSUS is NOT your local humane society. (Please donate to your local humane society because HSUS gives only 1% of their monies to local humane societies.)
I am a hog farmer living in southern Minnesota. My husband and I have farmed for nearly 35 years and yes, we have always raised hogs. When I looked at this video, I saw a number of inaccuracies. Immediately, I noticed they were trying to humanize or “Disney”ize the pigs. The opening scene had a hog “talking” about the “old farm” where the sun was shining and the fields have green grass.
About 35 years ago when we started farming, we housed our hogs outside. The problem with this outdoor housing in southern Minnesota is we don’t have a lot of 70 degree sunny days. We remember quite well the days when the temperature was -20 degrees (or colder) with the wind blowing 30-40 miles per hour. To the other extreme, there were summers with 100 degrees, high humidity and without a breeze. Pigs don’t sweat. So on those days the hogs were absolutely miserable. To help beat the heat, the pigs needed a little luck such as a recent rainstorm. Maybe a mud puddle would be available to help them cool down. But there were also consequences with that too. Twisting a leg or injuring a back are the type of injuries we saw because of the unstable ground (muddy holes) they walked on. We have taken care of many injured hogs due to the shortcomings of outdoor lots. Other risks of being outdoors were predators, the spread of disease by rodents and birds, and the social hierarchical structure which creates hogs to be territorial.
Here’s a great video about hog farmers that is more accurate than “A Pig’s Tail”.
|Modern Hog Barn
Another scene in the video shows the farmer walking into a dimly lit barn and making a remark about the smell. Yes, there is a smell that goes with farming. All animals have an odor, even my dog. In our well lit barns, we have a ventilation system that runs fans to bring in clean, fresh air constantly. It also helps to cool temperatures in the summer to give the hogs more comfort. In addition, we have a sprinkler system that will spray a cool water mist on the hogs during very warm days. These conditions are in contrast to what Mother Nature gives or doesn’t give them outdoors. Also the video shows the farmer with head gear (maybe trying to signify a factory environment?) and the use of an electric prod. The scene with the electric prod was definitely an exaggeration. It reminded me of the old time cartoons such as Tom and Jerry! These prods were used in the past to help hogs move along. But we have found better ways to accomplish the same thing. We haven’t used them in a very long time. And we don’t use the head gear unless we want to listen to music!
Tail Docking is another subject that is addressed in the video. The purpose of tail docking is to prevent tail biting. Pigs will nibble other pigs’ tails and once blood is drawn, other pigs will continue to chew on the tail. It causes the pig pain and could lead to an infection. This could happen indoors or outdoors. Tail docking is typically done within 24 hours of birth and causes little or no pain.
Proud and Happy
The last scene talks about a proud and happy farmer. A proud and happy farmer is a farmer who takes care of his animals and America’s hog farmers do this on a daily basis.
So how does this video apply to World Food Day? To be honest, I don’t know. To end world hunger, I believe meat will be a part of the solution and HSUS stand is to decrease the amount of meat raised on farms.
Sharing the Goal
As farmers, we share the goal of ending world hunger and we work hard in helping that goal become a reality. We also value caring for our animals. We work with veterinarians and animal care experts who give us advice to best practices. Farmers also participate in the PQA Plus program which is a certification that improves animal welfare practices on a continuous basis. In fact, our meat packer requires all hog farmers who sell to them be PQA Plus certified.
My last piece of advice is to talk to a farmer who works and cares for their animals everyday.
Here is a link to a previous post of mine on Why Hog Farmers Use Gestation Stalls.
A Link to another response to the “A Pig’s Tail” video.
Another link from Food Dialogues talking about maternity pens for hogs.