On Tuesday, the animal rights organization Mercy for Animals launched a national campaign accusing Walmart of animal cruelty.
Protesters gathered locally and nationwide outside Walmart stores to protest the practice of gestational crating.
Here in Lubbock, shoppers pulled up to the Walmart on Marsha Sharp to a display of a giant inflatable pig locked in a narrow crate with sores and cuts.
The advocacy group wants the supermarket chain to refuse pork products from companies who crate their sows throughout their pregnancies. The group calls the practice cruel and has even gone undercover to expose the practice.
According to Jeni Haines, campaign coordinator for Mercy for Animals, "Numerous Mercy For Animals investigations have documented pregnant pigs confined in filthy metal crates so small they can't even turn around or lie down comfortable for almost their entire lives."
Mercy for Animals wants Walmart to refuse to sell pork from these suppliers as they say other major supermarkets have done.
Animal advocacy group Evolutus is working with Mercy for Animals and says that gestational crating "has been widely condemned by veterinarians and leading farm animal welfare experts."
Evolutus says the practice "has been banned in nine U.S. states and the entire European Union."
Walmart spokesperson Danit Marquardt issued the following statement in response to the protests:
"This is a complicated issue. We're listening closely to points of view from farmers, food manufacturers, animal rights organizations, customers and others. We think constructive dialogue and a collaborative approach is the right path to the right solution. We hold our suppliers to the highest standards and do not tolerate animal mistreatment."
Dave Warner of the National Pork Producers Council says gestational crating is actually the most humane way to house pregnant sows.
"They allow for individual care to sows and eliminate aggression from other pregnant sows. The vast majority of hog farmers use gestation stalls for at least some part of the sow's gestating years," he says.
Warner says this does not mean the sows are kept in crates throughout their lives.
Warner says the purpose of the National Pork Producers Council is to "champion pork producers' choice to raise and care for their animals they way they think is best."
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