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"