Is Factory Farming Even Worse Than We Know?


If you’re not already anti-factory-farming, this will do it: The Humane Society just released an undercover investigation (watch the video if you can stomach it, or scroll down the link to find the full report) into the obscene abuses of female breeding pigs and piglets by Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest (and probably most profitable) producer of pork. The video leaves me pretty much speechless.(More links here, at

I’m usually not one to cry “boycott,” but if you, like Paula Deen, are a Smithfield supporter – in fact, if you’re still eating industrially raised pork (or chicken or beef or fish for that matter) – get real. Any industry (and Smithfield is hardly alone, though it does seem to be performing most egregiously) that operates with such infuriating disregard for the welfare of their animals deserves all the trouble we can muster.


35 thoughts on “Is Factory Farming Even Worse Than We Know?

  1. Thanks so much for this post, Mark. The industry’s strength is hiding reality from thoughtful, compassionate people:“For modern animal agriculture, the less the consumer knows about what’s happening before the meat hits the plate, the better.“If true, is this an ethical situation?“Should we be reluctant to let people know what really goes on, because we’re not really proud of it and concerned that it might turn them to vegetarianism?”Peter Cheeke, PhD, Oregon State U. Professor of Animal AgricultureContemporary Issues in Animal Agriculture, 2004 textbook

  2. Mark, thank you for posting this. I think I personally need a wake-up call on where and who I purchase my meat from. While I run a blog about grilling (grillgrrrl) I am also an animal advocate and these practices deeply concern me. While my stint at vegetarianism in college didn’t last I do want to know that the meat I eat has been humanely raised and this is quite distressing. I guess it really is worth buying organic/free range at all costs, even though it can get rather expensive. Thank you for shedding light on this. I really love Paula Deen but it saddens me that she backs a brand that treats their animals so inhumanely. She probably has no idea.

  3. This is horrifying. Unfortunately, people need to wake up and decide whether they want to eat meat or not, and if they do, how much they are willing to pay in order to finance humane farming. I’m afraid that most people simply don’t care, which is sad.

  4. Another damning piece of evidence that should turn people away from factory farms and towards more humane, sustainable means of animal domestication and food production. Thank you, Mark, for highlighting these issues in an informed way.

  5. Thank you Mark. More of this needs to be published in mainstream media and elsewhere. What more do people need to see in order to change their behavior towards animals? If this was a photo or video of a crate full of tortured, full-bred dogs, would that do it? (Apparently not, since puppy mills are thriving throughout the country and the investigative footage of those are also horrific. ) Those pigs are living through the very definition of hell on earth — at our hands. Regardless of one’s religion or culinary preferences, these are intelligent, feeling beings. What else does one need to know?

  6. Is there an online registry of farms / brands / restaurants that sell pork raised in a humane way? Somewhere one could check before eating out to make sure they’re not contributing to this?

  7. Will — as Mark pointed out in a previous post, "free range" can be better than factory farms. But if someone profits from selling you an animal’s flesh, you can’t really trust their marketing about how much they care for said animal. Unfortunately, the only way you can really know is if you visit (unannounced) the farm and the slaughterhouse.

  8. Many thanks for being such a strong voice for animal protection, Mark! I’m glad to see the Humane Society of the United States continuing to investigate the terrible realities of our industrial animal agriculture system. I watched the extended video provided on the page you linked to. (Thanks for that.) This is so shocking. How are we as a society continuing to let this happen? And how can Paula Deen lend her support to the routinely cruel practices of Smithfield Foods? I plan to ask her at keep up the good work!

  9. Also Paula Deen DOES KNOW about Smithfield because I and others told her as soon as she announced the endorsement. I got several emails explaining that they loved feedback and didn’t have time to talk about this issue but were happy to tell me more things that she endorsed etc. etc. etc. Really unresponsive. From several people in the org.

  10. While I don’t want to see any innocent animals killed for any reason… I certainly don’t want them to live miserable lives on top of it all. The more knowledge everyone has – the better chance to make better choices. Thank you for bringing more awareness to the issues.

  11. Amen. Actions speak louder than words. We must all act, we do not need to eat the quantities of meat that require these production levels/methods.Thanks again.

  12. The NYT story says you ‘appear’ to be calling for a boycott? Are you? I’ll join the facebook page mentioned above, but it would be doubly powerful if ‘seemed’ were to turn to ‘is’ for you, maybe bringing Deen along for the ride.

  13. This story is an eye opener. Just awful…and I will NEVER eat another product from Smithfield. Shame on Paula Deen too…I would have thought after seeing her dogs with her that she would be compassionate towards all animals. I hope they are fined so much….that they go out of business!….I’ll surely tell all of my friends about this.

  14. I find it disgusting that human beings choose to turn a blind eye to animal abuse on animals other than pets or the more known wildlife species (ie. dolphins, etc) for their own dietary indulgences and greed. all living things were created equally and deserve the same love and respect that we as human beings are supposed to give each other. there is simply no excuse for this behaviour and it needs to be made illegal to raise, house, and slaughter these beautiful and intelligent animals in this manner. it isn’t just smithfield, it is every factory farm on the planet. animals are not inanimate objects- they are living, breathing creatures with feelings and emotions that feel joy and pain just like we do. end the suffering NOW- go vegetarian!

  15. I really want to implore all of my friends on facebook to please read this article and if you eat meat please watch the video. This kind of abuse is unacceptable and anyone who purchases unethical meat is part of the problem. Please do something for our fellow creatures–be a more compassionate human being. This type of abuse and torture is completely unnecessary and deplorable.Research the farms that you buy from–STOP being part of this problem.Peace and love,Eve

  16. I have also emailed Paula Deen, Smithfield Farms’ and and Steven.burd@ regarding my concerns on this horrific practice. A boycott of the products in which animals are so inhumanely treated is absolutely necessary. ALL of us have to stand up and speak out on behalf of these defenseless animals that are so tortured and inhumanely treated. Let your stores where these products are sold be aware of your disgust. Your inaction and silence is acceptance of this practice. We CAN prevent it.

  17. HSUS is at it again. The videos they produce are closed minded, falsified, and accomplish their goal completely. Did you know HSUS is not a reputable organization? They don’t support animal shelters, and they themselves rarely give the majority of their budget to animals. Agriculture is important. And just like any industry it has evolved to meet changing demands. The pigs shown in that video were not hurt, those lesions and effects that the sows shown had very rarely happen. Producers care about their animals, and have a moral obligation to produce food for you and their families. They eat the same pork you do, they want it to be raised humanely just as you do. Gestation stalls are not in any way harmful to the sow. What is harmful is when they get picked on, and starve because the other sows push them away from the food when they are in group housing.Yes you can say lets produce pigs like we used to, but that will not feed the growing population. We need production that is efficient and won’t harm our environment. Modern pork production accomplishes that. For now we should be glad that we have a choice to pick which type of food we eat. For more information I encourage you to visit The 5 W’s of Food Production blog at ..

  18. I’m not buying into propaganda, I’m speaking from experience and facts. It’s been shown that meat is beneficial to our diet over and over again. And if we were to produce more crops, we’d need way more land, water, and soil nutrients than we already have. It’s obvious you care about animals, I respect that. I also respect your choice to go vegan. However we as consumers should have a choice on what we want to eat. What are you going to say to those who live in poverty when they can’t afford high priced fruits and vegetables? Will you look in the face of a starving child and tell them to go hungry? Farmers care about the land, their animals, and producing a product to feed the world. I don’t know if you have ever visited what you call a "factory farm," but I would encourage you too. I’m not telling you to eat meat or animal products. I’m just saying the life we live today wouldn’t be the same without animal agriculture. We should have a choice as to what we want to eat, and know that agriculture, all facets of it, are important.

  19. <table cellspacing="0" cellpadding="0" border="0" ><tr><td valign="top" style="font: inherit;">I couldn’t help but notice that the one thing you neglect to address is the one concern at issue. &nbsp;How do you possibly condone inhumane treatment of animals for any reason? &nbsp;I do believe that you are a very cold hearted person, without compassion, and most probably, a plant for corporate farmers. &nbsp;Have a happy holiday. &nbsp;Not.<br><br>—</td></tr></table>

  20. There is a problem with this discussion. First, for most urbanites, they will tend to see animal abuse in situations where there is no actual abuse. Urbanites tend to think that the animals feel and think like we do. They do not. This is a major difficulty when there are accusations of animal abuse. And, the HSUS is adept at using this lack of animal husbandry knowledge to promote the idea that farm animals are being abused when they are being handled, housed, or fed in xx way. There are reasons for what the farmers are doing. Most large farms are following science based practices with their animals in order to maintain healthy animals and produce healthy young. It would not make any sense for any farmer who expects to sell animals to do less than provide the best possible care. Now, that MAY include such practices as using gestation crates and crates where the sows can farrow the piglets and the piglets will not be destroyed because the mother rolls over on them. Without an understanding of each type of animal, whether it is a chicken or a pig, what may LOOK like abuse may simply be the most reasonable way to maintain these animals in groups. To do otherwise may end up causing loss of life for some of the animals. Now, if a FARMER is going to comment about alleged animal abuse and state that XX practice is harmful, then that is another matter. But, if a representative of the HSUS is going to comment, then we have to suspect not only the motive, but the allegation of abuse. You see, the HSUS has a well stated agenda…to eliminate all animal use. What could be clearer than that? And, they have stated that they plan to do that INCREMENTALLY….and incrementally means going after bits and pieces of animal farming practices until the regulations make it impossible for large farmers to produce animals. Then there will be the small farmers, and the cost of eating meat will sky rocket…thus accomplishing the agenda of the HSUS, to end the consumption of meat.While the HSUS is free to hold their agenda, it is certainly wrong to use allegations of abuse and misinform the general public about farming practices, so that they vote for incorrect regulations of farm practices, with the end result that the public now finds that they can ill afford to purchase meat for their tables, or pets for companions.So, when some "undercover" spy for the HSUS comes forward with a video alleging abuse, one needs to view that with a big grain of salt, as PERCEPTION can be altered by the way a video photo is depicted and described, and viewers are urged to think…"How would YOU feel if you were in this pen?" But, animals do not think or feel like humans do….that is a fact.

  21. While there is this constant drumming about the cost of producing meat when the grains could be fed directly to humans and save that cost. Keep in mind that cattle DO NOT live on the land that would be used to grow vegetables and grains…they live on land that is rather useless for grain production. Now, IF we were all to become vegans and eat soy and tofu, the result would be the destruction of a lot more of the Amazon rain forest and such places world wide. These forests are needed to sustain our planet.Another point, You vegans might do well to read The Third Chimpanzee by Jared Diamond as he outlines exactly how the human race was able to evolve into a civilized society DUE TO THE USE OF ANIMALS…for transport, for food, for work, for hunting, for clothing, etc. etc. Those societies that did NOT have the use of domesticated animals did NOT evolve into civilized societies (examples are the primitive societies in the highlands of New Guinea and in the forests of the Phillippines and the Australian aborigines of old). Those are the regions where there were no animals that had the potential for domestication.When you view the world from your present urban and suburban life, without considering the background of human history, without a broad knowledge of farming practices and animal management practices, without a basic understanding of how agriculture SUPPORTS our civilization, then you can make pronouncements about why a vegan lifestyle would be good for the planet. BUT, you are speaking from the present moment in time, without a sound basis in the realities of human health, focusing on one concept, (suffering), which may not be a valid approach to determining whether or not humans should be eating animals and whether or not that is even practical in terms of the uses of land to produce food for a vegan nation. Not to mention the studies in the EU which show that vegan mothers are producing children which are missing critical ingredients for developing a normal brain and body. While most decent humans do NOT support animal suffering, that is not to say that those same individuals do not include animal meat in their diets. Animals can be humanely produced for food and slaughtered in humane ways…(see Temple Grandin’s work).

  22. I am vegetarian for 4 years, dont eat meat anymore thanks God, I saw many videos of the cruelty with the animais in the factories farms and slaughter houses, the animals suffer so much, So I dont want to be part of it anymore. I prefer that with talent people can create delicious vegan recipes. vegies are great if you know how to make in many diferent ways. I will become totaly vegan in the future. I prefer vegan food but sometimes I eat vegetarian . STOP EATING MEAT ! And you MR. MARK , Please make some great vegan food for us !

  23. Update: This past Friday, the University of North Carolina newspaper–The Daily Tar Heel–printed a brilliant editorial cartoon exposing the realities of how Smithfield Foods treats pigs: earlier this month, the documentary film ‘Pig Business’ ( had its U.S. premier on Capitol Hill. This screening included a discussion featuring the film’s director Tracy Worcester, U.S. Congressperson Dennis Kucinich (D – OH), Robert Kennedy, Jr. from the Waterkeeper Alliance, and Dr. Michael Greger from the Humane Society of the United States. You can see the video of this informative and inspiring discussion at ‘Pig Business’ exposes the many hidden costs associated with Smithfield’s pork production. The whole film can be viewed at

  24. I don’t know about Robert Kennedy, but Congressman Kucinich is a well known supporter for the animal rights movement. And, of course, Dr. Greger works for the HSUS. The HSUS, is an organization that advertizes for donations to save dogs and cats, and uses those donated funds to conduct lobbying, promote legislative initiatives, sue government agencies and basically work against all animal used, whether for food or as pets. Animal rights is about removing control over animals from people. Animal welfare is about improving the lives of animals. I suggest that all who are really concerned about animals take the time to find out which organizations are truly working for the betterment of animals. See. for some very interesting facts about animal rights and animal welfare.

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