Perhaps you've come to terms with the knowledge that you're probably gnawing on pig intestines and other troubling substances when you order the McRib, but animal rights activists are determined to ruin this sandwich for you. For some reason products come under greater scrutiny when you name them after the one item that they most noticably lack, and now the Humane Society is taking aim, claiming the animals that give their lives to make your favorite limited edition hunk of reconstituted pork aren't treated very well.
Yesterday the Humane Society of the United States filed a legal complaint with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission accusing Smithfield Foods, the company that supplies pork to McDonald's, of misleading consumers about what's really happening on their farms. The Atlantic reports that Smithfield employs Dr. Temple Grandin to advise them on animal welfare and claims to be "100 percent committed to ... animal care." McDonald's has given the company a "supplier sustainability" award, and the Humane Society has the gall to challenge the winner of a prestigious award the company made up.
Earlier this year, Smithfield posted a series of YouTube videos that depict their facilities as the pig version of a trip to Disney World (that ends on someone's barbeque). The Humane Society has posted its own video showing the results of an undercover investigation performed last year. According to The Atlantic, they allege:
Female pigs were crammed into gestation crates, preventing movement for most of their lives; many crates were coated in blood from the mouths of pigs chewing the metal bars of their crates; a sick pig was shot in the head with a captive bolt gun and thrown into a dumpster while still alive; prematurely born piglets routinely fell through the gate's slats into a manure pit; castration and tail docking took place without anesthesia; and employees tossed baby pigs into carts as if they were stuffed animals. The investigator saw many lame pigs but never a vet.
Grandin does not support the use of gestation crates, which are banned in several states, and McDonald's has admitted they're not what's best for the "welfare and well-being of those sows." In 2007 Smithfield pledged to phase out the crates by 2017, but two years later it announced that it couldn't possibly meet the decade-long deadline it set.
When asked about the suit Smithfield responded that it's "proud of our unparalleled track record as a sustainable food producer." Later a McDonald's rep said that they expect their suppliers to adhere to their animal welfare guidelines, and added:
"McDonald's has been a long-time supporter of alternatives to gestation stalls, and we will continue to support the efforts of Smithfield Foods and all of our suppliers to phase them out. Smithfield Foods was the first major pork producer that committed to phasing out gestation stalls, and we support the company's transparency and progress toward this goal."
Perhaps the McRib's exit later this month is for the best. We can't deny it has a strange charm, but it's forcing us to seriously reconsider our passion for cheap pork products.
McFib? The Conditions at McDonald's McRib Pork Supplier [The Atlantic]
Humane Society Files Complaint Against Smithfield Foods For Animal Welfare Claims [Chicago Tribune]