Undercover Investigation Exposes Shocking Neglect at Third Largest Pig Farm in U.S.
By Stephen Wells
“Progressive Farming. Family Style." It sounds like the slogan of a brand you could trust to adopt a forward thinking business style and embrace the public's growing consideration of animal welfare in animal agriculture, but a new undercover investigation blows that idyllic family farm image out of the water.
The tagline belongs to The Maschhoffs, which is the third largest pig producer in the U.S. and enjoys business from Hormel Foods, one of its largest customers. One of the company's Nebraska big breeding facilities is at the center of newly released undercover footage from the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the nation's leading legal animal protection organization. The footage is sickening.
Mother pigs and piglets alike are shown suffering and dying from a wide array of gruesome ailments. Undercover investigators documented pigs suffering for days or weeks with extreme prolapsed rectums, intestinal ruptures, large open wounds and huge, bloody ruptured cysts. The investigation also revealed that the pigs are left to go long stretches of time—up to three days—without food as the result of a failure of the electronic feeding mechanism. The footage reveals that The Maschhoffs workers were aware of the malfunction but still did not pursue alternate ways to feed the pigs.
The footage includes particularly haunting images of “thumping," a practice considered to be industry standard. Thumping is a method of killing piglets deemed sickly or too small. Their skulls are “thumped," i.e., smashed against the floor. It's a brutal act to watch and it's even more difficult to watch the aftermath—many piglets don't die immediately. The footage shows piglets conscious and looking around frantically or moving and convulsing—dying slowly.
Watching the footage, it starts to seem that slow, painful deaths are also standard at the facility. Pigs are marked with green paint to signify that they need to be killed, but many are left to languish for days, weeks, even months before they are “euthanized." Some of the pigs die on their own, but those who are still alive when their time comes are shot in the head, but it doesn't always work. The Animal Legal Defense Fund's footage shows a mother pig still alive after the first shot. It took multiple shots and many minutes of suffering before she finally died.
All this hardly seems like “the highest level of animal care" that The Maschhoffs claim on the Animal Welfare tab of their website. That means that when consumers consider their options at the grocery store and choose a product from The Maschhoffs or one of their customers, they are not getting what they paid for. The Maschhoffs work hard to promote the image of a friendly family farm because more and more Americans are thinking about animal welfare when they make their food choices. Customers simply would not be interested in the product if the company were honest about their practices, which seem to put profit over animal welfare and the law.
The Animal Legal Defense Fund is using the results of its undercover investigation to educate the public about what happens behind closed doors and to urge real change through the legal system. The organization has filed complaints with the Attorneys General of Nebraska and Illinois, where The Maschhoffs headquarters is located. The complaints allege that the company's business practices are unfair due to the apparent neglect of denying food and proper veterinary care, and deceptive due to the company's own advertising that it is committed to “humane animal handling" and providing the “best possible environment" for the animals.
Watch the uncover investigation video here:
For more information about the Animal Legal Defense Fund's investigation, visit www.aldf.org/protectpigs.
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By Peter Giger
The speed and scale of the response to COVID-19 by governments, businesses and individuals seems to provide hope that we can react to the climate change crisis in a similarly decisive manner - but history tells us that humans do not react to slow-moving and distant threats.
A Game of Jenga<p>Think of it as a game of Jenga and the planet's climate system as the tower. For generations, we have been slowly removing blocks. But at some point, we will remove a pivotal block, such as the collapse of one of the major global ocean circulation systems, for example the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), that will cause all or part of the global climate system to fall into a planetary emergency.</p><p>But worse still, it could cause runaway damage: Where the tipping points form a domino-like cascade, where breaching one triggers breaches of others, creating an unstoppable shift to a radically and swiftly changing climate.</p><p>One of the most concerning tipping points is mass methane release. Methane can be found in deep freeze storage within permafrost and at the bottom of the deepest oceans in the form of methane hydrates. But rising sea and air temperatures are beginning to thaw these stores of methane.</p><p>This would release a powerful greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, 30-times more potent than carbon dioxide as a global warming agent. This would drastically increase temperatures and rush us towards the breach of other tipping points.</p><p>This could include the acceleration of ice thaw on all three of the globe's large, land-based ice sheets – Greenland, West Antarctica and the Wilkes Basin in East Antarctica. The potential collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is seen as a key tipping point, as its loss could eventually <a href="https://science.sciencemag.org/content/324/5929/901" target="_blank">raise global sea levels by 3.3 meters</a> with important regional variations.</p><p>More than that, we would be on the irreversible path to full land-ice melt, causing sea levels to rise by up to 30 meters, roughly at the rate of two meters per century, or maybe faster. Just look at the raised beaches around the world, at the last high stand of global sea level, at the end of the Pleistocene period around 120,0000 years ago, to see the evidence of such a warm world, which was just 2°C warmer than the present day.</p>
Cutting Off Circulation<p>As well as devastating low-lying and coastal areas around the world, melting polar ice could set off another tipping point: a disablement to the AMOC.</p><p>This circulation system drives a northward flow of warm, salty water on the upper layers of the ocean from the tropics to the northeast Atlantic region, and a southward flow of cold water deep in the ocean.</p><p>The ocean conveyor belt has a major effect on the climate, seasonal cycles and temperature in western and northern Europe. It means the region is warmer than other areas of similar latitude.</p><p>But melting ice from the Greenland ice sheet could threaten the AMOC system. It would dilute the salty sea water in the north Atlantic, making the water lighter and less able or unable to sink. This would slow the engine that drives this ocean circulation.</p><p><a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/atlantic-conveyor-belt-has-slowed-15-per-cent-since-mid-twentieth-century" target="_blank">Recent research</a> suggests the AMOC has already weakened by around 15% since the middle of the 20th century. If this continues, it could have a major impact on the climate of the northern hemisphere, but particularly Europe. It may even lead to the <a href="https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/39731?show=full" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">cessation of arable farming</a> in the UK, for instance.</p><p>It may also reduce rainfall over the Amazon basin, impact the monsoon systems in Asia and, by bringing warm waters into the Southern Ocean, further destabilize ice in Antarctica and accelerate global sea level rise.</p>
The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation has a major effect on the climate. Praetorius (2018)
Is it Time to Declare a Climate Emergency?<p>At what stage, and at what rise in global temperatures, will these tipping points be reached? No one is entirely sure. It may take centuries, millennia or it could be imminent.</p><p>But as COVID-19 taught us, we need to prepare for the expected. We were aware of the risk of a pandemic. We also knew that we were not sufficiently prepared. But we didn't act in a meaningful manner. Thankfully, we have been able to fast-track the production of vaccines to combat COVID-19. But there is no vaccine for climate change once we have passed these tipping points.</p><p><a href="https://www.weforum.org/reports/the-global-risks-report-2021" target="_blank">We need to act now on our climate</a>. Act like these tipping points are imminent. And stop thinking of climate change as a slow-moving, long-term threat that enables us to kick the problem down the road and let future generations deal with it. We must take immediate action to reduce global warming and fulfill our commitments to the <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Paris Agreement</a>, and build resilience with these tipping points in mind.</p><p>We need to plan now to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, but we also need to plan for the impacts, such as the ability to feed everyone on the planet, develop plans to manage flood risk, as well as manage the social and geopolitical impacts of human migrations that will be a consequence of fight or flight decisions.</p><p>Breaching these tipping points would be cataclysmic and potentially far more devastating than COVID-19. Some may not enjoy hearing these messages, or consider them to be in the realm of science fiction. But if it injects a sense of urgency to make us respond to climate change like we have done to the pandemic, then we must talk more about what has happened before and will happen again.</p><p>Otherwise we will continue playing Jenga with our planet. And ultimately, there will only be one loser – us.</p>
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