A new Mercy For Animals undercover investigation provides a shocking look into one of the nation's largest pork producers – Iowa Select Farms in Kamrar, Iowa. At this factory farm, mother sows and their piglets are forced to suffer brutal abuse and lives of unrelenting confinement and misery.

Between April and June of 2011, an MFA investigator documented:

  • Mother sows confined to barren metal crates barely larger than their own bodies – unable to turn around or lie down comfortably for nearly their entire lives
  • Workers ripping out the testicles of conscious piglets without the use of painkillers
  • Piglets suffering with herniated intestines, due to botched castration
  • Conscious piglets having their tails painfully sliced into and yanked off with dull clippers
  • Large, open, pus-filled wounds and pressure sores
  • Sick and injured pigs left to languish and slowly die without proper veterinary care
  • Mother pigs – physically taxed from constant birthing – suffering from distended, inflamed, bleeding, and usually fatal uterine prolapses
  • Management training workers to throw piglets across the room – comparing it to a "roller coaster ride"

Upon reviewing the undercover footage, world-renowned animal behaviorist Dr. Jonathan Balcombe denounced the facility, stating that "this video depicts scenes of unbearable suffering and inexcusable neglect. … This farm should be closed down at once."

Veterinarian Dr. Armaiti May also condemned the operation, stating, "I was greatly disturbed and appalled to watch footage of such horrifying cruelty and neglect towards pigs." Dr. May further stated:

I recommend group housing be instituted which allows enough space for pigs to turn around and extend their limbs without touching the sides of the enclosures or each other. All surgical procedures including castrations should be done only with the pigs anesthetized and using sterile technique.

Subjecting animals to a lifetime of confinement in crates so small they are virtually immobilized is perhaps the cruelest form of institutionalized animal abuse in existence. A growing number of animal welfare experts opposes the use of gestation crates, concluding what common sense should have told us all along: animals with legs should have room to move.

Dr. Temple Grandin, who is considered the world's leading expert on farmed-animal care and is an animal welfare advisor to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the meat industry, asserts that "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."

Sadly, grocery giants Kroger, Costco, Safeway, and Hy-Vee condone confining animals in crates barely larger than their bodies by selling pork from producers who use gestation crates – including Iowa Select Farms. These corporations have both the power and ethical responsibility to reject this abusive factory farming practice by immediately adopting policies that require suppliers to phase out their use of gestation crates.

Confining mother pigs in such crates is so patently cruel that the practice has been banned by the entire European Union, New Zealand, and the states of Florida, Arizona, Oregon, Colorado, California, Maine and Michigan.

Yet, while other states make progress to prevent cruelty to farmed animals, legislators in Iowa – the largest pork-producing state in the nation – are actively working to conceal it. At the behest of factory farm interests, Iowa legislators are considering an "ag-gag" bill that seeks to silence and intimidate whistleblowers who document and expose animal abuse. As this new investigation graphically illustrates, with not a single federal law providing protection to animals on factory farms, and Iowa state anti-cruelty law largely exempting farmed animals, legislators should be working to enact laws protecting animals, not abusers.

As MFA works to expose and end the exploitation of animals at the hands of the meat, egg and dairy industries, consumers still hold the greatest power of all to prevent needless suffering of farmed animals by adopting a healthy and humane vegan diet.

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