Animal Science in Pork Production

A few weeks ago, we wrote about the key differences between the science of animal welfare and the radical ideology of animal rights. While animal welfare looks to ensure adequate care for the animals raised to meet human needs, animal rights grants animals the same rights as humans and works for “total animal liberation.”

This dichotomy lies behind the ongoing debate over the use of individual maternity pens in pork production. Animal rights activists including PETA and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) — a vegan-led group that gives only one percent of its $130 million budget to local pet shelters — claim that maternity pens are inhumane. However, animal welfare scientists and the American Veterinary Medical Association say that they protect pregnant pigs from fighting injuries and ensure adequate nutrition. Our HumaneWatch project recently made a video on this issue, which you can watch below.

We don’t expect science to convince sentimentalists like New York Times columnist and resident foodie snob Mark Bittman or the committed animal rights ideologues who want to “get rid of the entire [animal agriculture] industry.” Farmers shifted toward individual housing for a reason. If housed outdoors pigs are exposed to temperature extremes and are at higher risk of predation. If housed in groups indoors the animals often fight, leading to injuries. If every pork producer switched to group housing, the vegan malcontents at HSUS and PETA would simply complain about that as a way of attacking pork.

It is important to note that the PETA view isn’t the only one, and that HSUS doesn’t have a monopoly over what’s humane. Any system of raising livestock will have costs and benefits to animal welfare, and farmers, not vegan activists, should be trusted to choose what’s best.