Sows at US factory farm fed blended flesh of baby pigs to guard against viral outbreak

Still from undercover video released this week by The Humane Society of The United States shows a pig in a gestation crate at Iron Maiden Farms in Owensboro, Kentucky.

The Humane Society of The United States has released a video [warning, graphic] shot secretly at Iron Maiden Hog Farm in Owensboro, Kentucky which shows evidence of humans doing something really gross to pigs: feeding them "piglet smoothies," as the Humane Society puts it. The sows at this farm are fed a blended slurry of dead baby pigs' flesh in an effort to stem the spread of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, or PEDV. More than 2 million piglets in 25 US states have been killed by that disease since April 2013, and it is spreading fast.

Advocates of the practice say it is effective in protecting pigs from the disease. But at what cost? Apart from the fact that it sounds disgusting and cruel, doesn't this also sound like how mad cow disease began? Could it somehow eventually end up harming human populations? And couldn't less stressful conditions for pigs help their immune systems fight off the disease outbreak, without resorting to such an extreme practice?

Snip from NPR's coverage:

Before we see the pile of dead piglets, we're shown how the sows at Iron Maiden are confined to narrow stalls that severely limit the animals' movement. No surprise here — these gestation crates are common in the industry, and animal welfare experts have long called on farmers to do away with them. (Many big producers are now moving away from the crates, as we've reported.)

But the HSUS claims the practice of feeding dead pigs to live pigs is illegal in the state of Kentucky, and may violate federal law, too. The Swine Health Protection Act prohibits feeding untreated garbage, which could be animal material, to pigs, unless it's "household waste."

"'Piglet Smoothie' Fed To Sows To Prevent Disease; Activists Outraged" []

Local coverage at the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Related: "As Idaho moves to criminalize undercover video with 'ag-gag' law, clip of dairy worker sexually abusing cow surfaces"

Notable Replies

  1. bkad says:

    I should be disgusted but my disgust is overwhelmed by my fascination that such a thing would work and that anyone would think of trying it.

  2. The gestation crates are far more disgusting than the "piglet smoothies." Pigs will happily eat their own kind if they happen to die, in the wild or in open pens, and I can't summon additional outrage over making food out of animals that were being raised for food anyway. There's nothing "cruel" about that specific thing.

    I'd like to see more concrete discussion of potential health hazards, mad-cow-style. That should've been the #1 point, not an afterthought to projecting human morals onto animals. And, of course, the animals' living conditions continue to be genuinely disgusting, cruel, and inhumane; but we've all got outrage fatigue over that, so activists need a novel angle ("piglet smoothies") if they want to get people talking (or get featured on BoingBoing).

  3. At Iron Maiden farm, should we really be surprised? ♪♫ "We oil the jaws of the (pork) machine and feed it with our babies..."♪♫

  4. "Iron Maiden" hog farm? Really? Why not something more menacing, like Hot Poker in the Eye Pastures, or Bamboo Sliver Under the Fingernails Farms?

    Well, videos like that are why industrial farms are trying to make it illegal for their operations to be filmed.

  5. A Priest and a Rabbi are riding in a plane. After a while, the Priest turns to the Rabbi and asks, "Is it still a requirement of your faith that you not eat pork?"

    The Rabbi responds, "Yes, that is still one of our beliefs."

    The Priest then asks, "Have you ever eaten pork?"

    To which the Rabbi replies, "Yes, on one occasion I did succumb to temptation and tasted pork."

    The Priest nodded in understanding and went on with his reading. A while later, the Rabbi spoke up and asked the Priest, "Father, is it still a requirement of your church that you remain celibate?"

    The Priest replied, "Yes, that is still very much a part of our faith."

    The Rabbi then asked him, "Father, have you ever fallen to the temptations of the flesh?"

    The Priest replied, "Yes Rabbi, on one occasion I was weak and broke with my faith."

    The Rabbi nodded understandingly for a moment and then said, "A lot better than pork isn't it?"

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