The McRib may be back, but along with it comes a legal complaint from the Humane Society of the United States, contending that McDonald’s pork supplier is guilty of inhumane practices. The HSUS complaint was filed to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and accused the company of making false claims. The claims in contention? That the pigs were being kept in “ideal” conditions.
According to a 2010 undercover HSUS investigation, pork farm Smithfield Foods kept their female pigs in confined gestation crates, and also practiced castration and tail docking without anesthesia. The crates were often coated in blood from pigs chewing the metal bars of the cages, premature pigs fell through gate slats into a manure pit and in one instance a pig was shot in the head with a bolt gun and thrown into a dumpster while still alive, The Atlantic reports.
Smithfield Foods, which counts Dr. Temple Grandin as animal welfare advisor, said in a response to HSUS, “We are proud of our unparalleled track record as a sustainable food producer and stand confidently behind our company’s public statements concerning animal care and environmental stewardship.” The Virginia-based company denies the claims, and continued, “Any objective assessment of our practices would conclude that Smithfield and our employees are behaving in a socially responsible manner.”
More recently, McDonald’s honored Smithfields with a “supplier sustainability” award, boasting that the fast-food chain’s pork comes from healthy pigs raised in good conditions. But McDonald’s recognized that gestation crates are inhumane and group housing is a better practice. Grandin also told Smithfields the crates have to go, and the supplier promised to phase out the crates by 2017, but according to The Atlantic, it has since withdrawn its promise.