Debra Teachout, DVM, MVSc
Dr. Teachout is a practicing veterinarian, who graduated from the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine. She also holds an advanced degree in veterinary clinical pathology from Western College of Veterinary Medicine and has completed additional coursework in farmed-animal welfare. Dr. Teachout states:
Overall animal welfare on this farm is very poor and unacceptable. As a veterinarian I observe significant pathology in the animals, procedures, conditions; and therefore, in the oversight and management. There are far too many severe injuries that cause pain and suffering. The size of the prolapses are shocking, and for the animals to progress to that state would indicate that they are not monitored well or cared for…. Pain, injury, and disease appear widespread. Sows are prevented from expressing their most natural of behaviors, that of nest building for their young, and this creates severe mental stress for them.
Animals in this pig facility are suffering, and the overt neglect of confined animals showing clear physical problems is inhumane. Management and oversight is either too lax or too accommodating in allowing this situation to occur. This pig farm should cease operations due to unacceptable animal welfare practices.
Armaiti May, DVM, CVA
Dr. May is a practicing veterinarian with experience treating farmed animals, who received her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from U.C. Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 2005. Dr. May states:
My overall impression is that the facility where this footage was taken shows extreme disregard for the basic welfare of the animals in its practices as well as lack of proper food and veterinary care. It is disheartening that this facility does not provide analgesics or anesthetics to the pigs undergoing surgery. This is cruel and inhumane considering that pigs feel pain just as much as dogs and cats. Additionally, gestation crates and other such confinement has been deemed inhumane and in fact outlawed in several states in the United States as well as other nations due to the restriction in mobility imposed on these animals and the severe stereotypic behaviors which occur as a result.
Lee Schrader, DVM
Dr. Schrader is a practicing veterinarian, who obtained her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Schrader has over 35 years of experience working with animals, particularly animals with serious, difficult-to-diagnose disorders. Dr. Schrader states:
Pregnant sows were confined in gestation crates that were barely large enough for their body. They could not turn around in such a confined space and one appeared unable to stand… The cruelty of constant confinement in a crate barely larger than the sow’s body cannot be overstated.
The management at this sow facility is substandard. The piglets are subjected to painful procedures without any analgesia by persons who appear unskilled. The tight confinement in small gestation crates causes severe emotional and physical distress to the sows. Complications, such as inguinal hernias (piglets) and uterine prolapses (sows), appear common, and result in the suffering and death of multiple pigs. Many pigs have untreated, infected, open wounds, others are lame or unable to move. The suffering of these animals is unnecessary and unacceptable.
Jonathan Balcombe, PhD
Dr. Balcombe is an ethologist with Bachelors and Masters degrees in biology, and a Doctorate in animal behavior from the University of Tennessee. He is the author of four books on animal behavior, as well as more than 40 book chapters and peer-reviewed journal papers. Dr. Balcombe states:
These videos depict scenes of unbearable suffering and inexcusable neglect. Piglets scream in agony while abdominal surgery (castration) is performed in a barn without anesthesia. Others have their tails roughly amputated with small pliers. Piglets are left to die slowly following botched operations that resulted in their abdominal organs extruding from their bellies. Other piglets stagger or gasp near death with no one to help them through their lonely agony. Sows chew maniacally on the bars of their tiny prisons. Some have wounds and prolapses that will cause death. Others already have. In this place, death seems like the only relief from suffering.
Temple Grandin, PhD, PAS
Dr. Grandin is considered the world's leading expert on farmed-animal welfare. She is an associate professor of livestock behavior at Colorado State University and an animal welfare advisor to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the meat industry. Dr. Grandin states:
Gestation crates for pigs are a real problem.... Basically, you’re asking a sow to live in an airline seat...I think it’s something that needs to be phased out.
Bernard E. Rollin, PhD
Dr. Rollin is a Distinguished Professor of Animal Sciences at Colorado State University and is well known internationally for his over 30 years of work in animal welfare. He was a major architect of federal laws protecting laboratory animals, and has written two books on farmed-animal welfare. He serves on the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production and is an expert witness on animal welfare issues in the U.S. and abroad.
Having visited, and extensively studied, examples of all contemporary systems utilized in confinement agriculture—be it poultry, veal, cattle, or swine—I can unhesitatingly affirm that sow stalls, or gestation crates, are the most egregious example of the application of industrial methods to animal production. While all of these systems are violative of animals’ physical and psychological nature… gestation crates come to the forefront as the worst of a bad lot. I have personally witnessed ordinary people’s response to their first experience of these crates, and have seen eminent academics emerge from a sow barn unabashedly in tears.
Edmond A. Pajor, PhD
Edmond A. Pajor is an Associate Professor, Animal Behavior and Welfare, Department of Animal Sciences, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA.
In gestation stalls, sows are prevented from performing many of the behavior patterns that pigs would perform in more natural or less restricted conditions resulting in a negative impact on sow welfare.
Prof. John Webster
John Webster, Senior Research Fellow and Emeritus Professor of Animal Husbandry, Department of Clinical Veterinary Science, University of Bristol, UK.
Confinement of sows during pregnancy, especially in individual stalls or on tethers, can be cold, uncomfortable and injurious, and imposes severe restrictions on natural behaviour.
Sows on concrete in confinement stalls suffer abuse according to all the Five Freedoms:
Those nations that still permit the confinement stall have either not yet reviewed the evidence or chosen to discard those elements of welfare abuse that I list above. This is, of course, not a scientific decision but a political one. When there is sufficient pressure of public opinion to persuade them that it is unjust then they will change their minds, because that is what politicians do.
In addition to condemnation by individual experts of the conditions for pigs at Iowa Select Farms, harsh criticism of the cruelty endured by sows confined in gestation crates has been leveled by numerous respected organizations and governmental bodies over the years.
Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production
After a comprehensive two-year study, the independent Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, a project of The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health chaired by former Kansas Governor John Carlin and including former U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, concluded that gestation crates should be phased out:
After reviewing the literature, visiting production facilities, and listening to producers themselves, the Commission believes that the most intensive confinement systems, such as restrictive veal crates, hog gestation pens, restrictive farrowing crates, and battery cages for poultry, all prevent the animal from a normal range of movement and constitute inhumane treatment.
American Veterinary Medical Association Task Force on the Housing of Pregnant Sows
Gestation stalls, particularly when used in conjunction with feed restriction, may adversely affect welfare by restricting behavior, including foraging, movement, and postural changes…. Other factors contributing to poor welfare in stalls and small, unbedded pens include lack of exercise, lack of environmental complexity, lack of rooting/chewing materials, and an inability for the sow to exert control over her environment.
Scientific Veterinary Committee of the European Commission
When sows are put into a very small pen, they indicate by their behavioural responses that they find the confinement aversive. If given the opportunity, they leave the confined space and they usually resist attempts to make them return to that place.
Farmers often comment that their stall-housed or tethered sows are lying for much of the day. Since the extent of the inactivity and unresponsiveness indicates abnormal behaviour, the sows may well be depressed in the clinical sense and poor welfare is indicated. Some sows show this abnormal behaviour as an alternative to stereotypies and there are brain correlates of both of these types of abnormal behaviour.
Recommendation: Since overall welfare appears to be better when sows are not confined throughout gestation, sows should preferably be kept in groups.