Monday, January 29, 2007

Sometimes things actually do change

Good news:

Pork processor Smithfield Foods Inc. said Thursday it will phase out gestation stalls or crates at all 187 sow farms it owns in eight states and replace them with "more animal-friendly" group housing pens over the next decade.
Smithfield's sows, which the company says grow to an average of 400 to 450 pounds during gestation, are kept in 2-by-7-foot metal crates in order to monitor their pogress during their four-month pregnancies.
Animal-rights groups argue that confining pigs in crates is inhumane because the sows don't have room to turn around, they develop leg problems and they suffer from boredom and frustration. Group pens give sows some room to move and the ability to socialize.

It's worth noting that Smithfield Foods is the pork supplier to McDonald's. I'm actually happier to see this than I am to buy locally-raised pork for my own table. If a small improvement in a large sector of the meat-producing industry is going to cause a greater net reduction in animal suffering than pampering the maybe 6 or 7 pigs I could possibly manage to eat in my lifetime, I'll go for the small improvement. That doesn't mean I can't buy locally-raised products too - it's just a good idea to keep these changes in perspective.
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