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Shareholders to Tyson Foods: Outdated Practices with Pigs Won’t Fly

Tyson still using pig gestation crates - considered by many to be extremely inhumane. Photo Credit: Farm Sanctuary.

Tyson still using pig gestation crates - considered by many to be extremely inhumane. Photo Credit: Farm Sanctuary.


August 19, 2013

BOSTON - In a proposal to Tyson Foods, shareholders are asking the company - one of the world's largest meat and poultry producers - to find a little humanity when it comes to the pigs it uses for pork production. The company has no plans to phase out the use of gestation crates, which keep female pigs cramped in tiny cages too small for them to turn around in for most of their lives.

According to Lucia von Reusner, shareholder advocate at Green Century Capital Management in Boston, one of the joint filers of the proposal, along with The United Methodist Church Benefit Board and the Humane Society of the United States, that policy could cause problems for the food company.

"This proposal urges Tyson to assess and report to shareholders the risks associated with continuing to use the outdated and controversial practice of gestation crates to confine pigs in its pork supply chain."

Von Reusner said that 95 percent of consumers are against animal cruelty and nearly 60 of the world's largest pork buyers, including McDonald's, Burger King, Costco and Oscar Mayer, have committed to eliminating the crates from their supply chains.

"And a lot of these companies are Tyson customers, so the fact that Tyson is refusing to give its customers what they want is a huge risk for investors," she declared. "You know, the market is shifting and Tyson is not moving."

Von Reusner said Tyson may be in danger of losing market share if it doesn't respond to customer demands for higher animal-welfare standards. Many of Tyson's competitors, such as Hormel and Smithfield Foods, have announced that their company-owned facilities will be gestation-crate-free by 2017, and Cargill is already 50 percent free of the crates.

Some in the industry cite cost as the reason for the crates, stating that less staff is needed to look after the pigs if they can't move. Von Reusner countered that, according to a two-and-a-half-year study, "Reproductive performance can be maintained or enhanced in well-managed group housing systems ... without increasing labor."

Link to the letter at HumaneSociety.org, and to the study cited at tinyurl.com/kpllhr5.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - MA