An undercover investigation of America's largest major pork producer has revealed pigs confined in small cages, animals suffering from deadly skin infections, and continued use of gestation crates.
Investigators with animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere [DxE] released footage taken at the company's largest facilities in North Carolina and Utah.
According to DxE, its activists were operating on a tip from local residents, when they entered Smithfield facilities in North Carolina.
The group says its investigations found thousands of mother pigs confined in gestation crates - cages so small that the animals cannot turn their heads - despite a company promise back in 2017 to phase out the practice.
In addition, activists reported that they found animals in poor health. A spokesperson said: "Piglets suffering from a deadly form of staph were removed from the facility and rushed to receive veterinary care.
"One, a victim of blunt force trauma to the head, died on the way to the vet."
Footage from the investigation
Under North Carolina and Utah Ag-Gag Laws, undercover filming or photography on farms is illegal without the consent of the owner. It targets whistleblowers trying to document animal rights abuses at these facilities.
Activists believe consumers are opposed to such abuses. DxE Founder Wayne Hsiung says: "They are being denied accurate information by the state's ag-gag statute which outlaws this kind of exposure of misconduct at animal-abusing facilities.
"Consumers have a right to accurate information about what happens to animals. Smithfield is not just torturing animals but conspiring to cover it up."
Smithfield provided a statement for Plant Based News in response to DxE's investigation. Keira Lombardo, Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs, said that activists 'continuously risk the lives of the animals
they claim to rescue'.
On the issue of gestation crates, Lombardo says Smithfield 'successfully completed the transition on all
company-owned farms globally, including hog operations in North Carolina by the end of 2017', claiming that 'individual stalls are
still used for breeding and farrowing'.
She added: "As
with all concerns regarding our animals' well-being and in an abundance of caution, we have immediately launched
an internal and third-party investigation of the sow farm in question. Once complete, we will share these findings
and swiftly address concerns, if any."