Pope Francis, as did St. Francis, loves the poor. I hope too that the Pope also loves the animals as did his namesake. For many, many years I have been so unhappy with the Catholic Church in its lack of compassionate teaching re the animals. Surely, Pope Francis must be aware of how terribly we exploit ALL of them, and especially those we keep in the Confined Animal Farm Operations (CAFOS).
Today -on this terribly cold freezing day which a great part of the country is experiencing -I picked up the 2013 July/August Mother Jones magazine and finally decided to tackle "Gagged by Big Ag" by Ted Genoways. It is a long comprehensive almost 7 page article which covers the topic well. I can only hope to share now some of his excellent salient points found in his first two pages.
He starts out with a description of the MowMars Farms hog confinement facility which seemed to be a decent place to raise hogs. The three large sow barns appeared to be well ventilated and supplied with water from giant holding tanks. But looks can be deceiving, and after two undercover Peta activists provided hidden camera footage taken over a period of months during the summer of 2008 -the terrible suffering of the sows was revealed.
The videotape caught one senior worker beating a sow repeatedly on the back with a metal gate rod. Defending himself, Shawn Lyons said "You do feel sorry for them, but if they get spooked, you're in for a fight." This sometimes happened when they would be finally moved from the gestation grates where they were immobilized for 114 very long days - not being able to even turn around. When moved to the farrowing crates to give birth, they sometimes became belligerent.. Too bad he didn't even give a thought of how he would react after 114 days of torture by handlers.
Then Genoways describes more of the cruel and indefensible acts perpetrated by others: "...a supervisor turning an electric prod on a sow too crippled to stand, another worker shoving a herding cane into a sow's vagina. In one close-up a distressed sow who'd been attacking her piglets was shown with her face royal blue from the Prima Tech marking dye sprayed into her nostrils 'to get the animal high.' In perhaps the most disturbing sequence, a worker demonstrated the method for euthanizing underweight piglets; taking them by the hind legs and smashing their skulls against the concrete floor-a technique known as 'thumping.' Their bloodied bodies were then tossed into a giant bin where videos showed them twitching and paddling until they died, sometimes long after."
Shawn Lyons would be fired as well as some of his co-workers who even treated the sows more viciously than he. HIs only defense was that he had been trained in these methods of hog-handling and that many of them- including thumping were legal and widely practiced.
It was a PR victory for Peta when Hormel -one of the the largest food processors in the country and the principal buyer of Mow-Mars hogs called the video appalling and completely unacceptable. Peta was also fortunate to have gotten the rare cooperation of the Greene County Sheriff's Office. But it also proved to be a hollow victory because no charges were brought against the farm owners who should have been held responsible for crimes committed by "under-trained and overburdened workers."
And who else should be held responsible for this cruelty? Shouldn't all of us who think we can't live without pork, bacon, and ham be also responsible for this animal suffering? Hopefully, the Holy Father may think so and join us in our abstinence from all animal products. If not -at least let us hope that one day these horrible gestation and farrowing crates will be a thing of the past and will be viewed as articles of torture which they really are. If we can't live without hog products -- let us at least raise them compassionately.