McDonald's popular McRib, the sandwich "your dreams dream about," according to advertising campaigns, are made from pigs that have undergone torturous conditions, according to 2010 investigation by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). It has now emerged that the pork producer McDonald's relies upon for its McRibs has failed to make significant changes to its practices, leading the HSUS to file a legal complaint.
The fast food giant gets the pork for its McRib from Virginia-based Smithfield Foods, which according to its website delivers "Good food. Responsibly" and lists "advancing animal care" as one of its core values.
Those claims, however, are being contested by the Humane Society after the animal rights group sent an investigator to work for one month in the factory last year and found evidence of abuse and torture, according to an investigation summary released by the HSUS. The legal complaint accuses Smithfield of "issuing unlawfully false or misleading representations about the animal welfare and environmental practices," that has misled investors.
According to the summary, over 1000 sows are kept in gestation crates – small, metal crates which leave little, if any space to move – a controversial practice that is being rapidly phased out by other large, pork producers, such as Cargill, which is 50 percent gestation crate free and Maxwell Foods, which does not use the crates at all.
In the European Union, as well as seven U.S. states, the use of gestation crates has been outlawed.
In the 2010 HSUS report, the extreme confinement of the gestation crates are "so small the animals could barely move for virtually their entire lives," and the extreme confinement causes them to bite on the bars until their mouths bleed.
The confinement also caused the pigs to develop "open pressure sores and other ulcers and wounds" which went untreated because there was no veterinarian on staff; when one pig developed a basketball-size abscess on its neck, a barn manager simply cut it off with a dirty razor, the report says.
"If this is the best that Smithfield can do, it is evident that there are terrible problems in the nation's pig industry," stated Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. "It is indefensible for Smithfield to allow its sows to linger in crates barely larger than their bodies for months on end."
In addition to the complications as a result of the confinement, employees demonstrated poor treatment of the animals, including stomping pigs' necks, shooting one in the head and throwing it in the dumpster while it was still breathing. In addition, employees were seen tossing piglets into carts as well as letting piglets who were born premature to fall through crate slats and die in manure pits.
The HSUS accuses Smithfield of having "actively marketed" towards investors who are committed to corporate social responsibility (CSR), by producing videos highlighting its CSR tendencies and "issuing annual CSR reports, creating a CSR-dedicated website, and seeking (and announcing) inclusion in the FTSE4Good Index, an investment index marketed as including only socially responsible companies."