Animal Rights Groups Gaining Ground with Restaurant Groups

In the last month or so, there’s been a flurry of news releases from food establishments that they are moving towards serving pork products where the open system for sow housing is used. Recently, Domino’s Pizza joined those ranks, in the opposite direction. They do not plan to make any changes to their meat procurement pipeline.

RC Hunt, pork producer from Wilson, NC and president of the National Pork Producers Council:

“What we have seen is they have gone about this decision the right way. They have the trust and confidence in the farmer to make that decision rather than noting some pressure from an activist group that has a different agenda.” 

Hunt explains that animal rights groups are essentially behind this rash of press releases the past month or so:

“We are disappointed in that. To me, if you don’t raise any pigs and you are marketing parts of the pig and the pork that goes with that, it makes sense to me that you would engage the professionals in that decision. Whether that be the national associations or the farmers themselves who can assist in those types of situations. We have had a flurry of announcements here over the last few weeks and they have been motivated based on the HSUS and UAP federal legislation that has been proposed in Congress. We are in the process of trying to get approved and where the activist groups want to federally legislate how farmers care for their animals.” 

In fact, the animal rights activist groups have a plan, and they’re succeeding, according to Hunt:

“The big motivating point in creating the multiple press releases, they think they are very powerful, they purchase stock in these corporations and show up at the meetings. They get up in front of the directors and voice their needs and beliefs, and many times the leaders of these organizations want to just make these issues go away. Unfortunately the easiest way to do it is to make a decision like this and these leaders feel it will put everything to rest.” 

And in looking at the history of HSUS in particular, and the successes they’ve seen the past few months, Hunt feels that the organization is just getting rolling:

“It’s amazing. HSUS is a fund raising machine. I wish that they could take their energy and capital and put it into what they advertise for, that being humane shelters for pets all across this country. As you know, very little of that money actually goes into those systems. And unfortunately, when you have a team of lawyers like this we probably haven’t seen the worst of it yet.”

RC Hunt, pork producer from Wilson, North Carolina and president of the National Pork Producers Council.

NPPC released a statement on this issue late last month. The text follows:

NPPC Praises Domino's For Rejecting HSUS Proposal

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 30, 2012 ?Domino?s Pizza shareholders last Wednesday rejected by a majority vote of 80 percent a resolution from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) requiring its pork suppliers to stop the use of gestation stalls. The National Pork Producers Council hailed the move as a vote for common sense.

Animal activist groups recently have influenced several prominent foodservice companies, including McDonalds, Wendys and Burger King, to make poorly informed decisions on sow housing.

The vote to reject the HSUS resolution was a vote for common sense,said NPPC President R.C. Hunt, a pork producer from Wilson, N.C. ?We appreciate Domino?s belief that Americas farmers, veterinarians and other animal agriculture experts are better suited than activist groups to determine what the best animal care practices are.?

U.S. pork producers care about their animals and rely on the experience and knowledge of animal care experts, including the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, when designing housing and handling their animals. These associations recognize both gestation stalls and group housing systems as appropriate for providing for the well-being of sows during pregnancy.

Removing sow stalls has no demonstrable health or welfare benefits to animals, said Dr. Liz Wagstrom, NPPC chief veterinarian. In fact, the key factor that most affects animal well-being is husbandry skills ? that is, the care given to each animal. There is no scientific consensus on the best way to house gestating sows because each type of housing system has inherent advantages and disadvantages.?

Americas pork farmers are committed to producing safe, affordable and healthy foods for consumers, using industry customs and practices that have been designed with input from veterinarians and other animal-care experts. Providing humane and compassionate care for their pigs at every stage of life is one of the We Care ethical principles to which U.S. hog farmers adhere.

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