Undercover investigation finds animal abuse at JBS supplier

Mercy For Animals, an animal-welfare group, says its undercover investigation recorded multiple instances of abuse and extreme confinement on a Tennessee farm that supplies pork to JBS, the largest meat company in the world. The investigation coincides with an approaching ballot measure in California that would outlaw such practices for products sold in the state.

“Imagine being locked in a tiny crate for your entire life,” said Lindsay Wolf, vice president of investigations for MFA, on a press call Tuesday. “Unfortunately, this is the reality for most mother pigs raised and killed for food in the United States.”

Multiple videos filmed by an undercover investigator show what MFA says are employees of Tosh Farms hitting and kicking pigs, cutting piglets’ teeth and removing their testicles without any pain mediation, and sows confined in crates so small that the animals were unable to turn around. Such “gestation” crates are commonly used to house female pigs, and animal advocates have argued for decades that they are cruel and inhumane. Dozens of food companies, groceries, and fast-food chains, have promised to eliminate gestation crates from their supply chains. But the extent of progress toward that goal is unclear. Ten states have banned the crates altogether.

The investigation took place between December 2017 and March 2018. Wolf said it is MFA’s 12th such investigation on pork farms.

With its findings, MFA is targeting Tosh buyer JBS, demanding that the company implement reforms in its supply chain. “JBS has the power and the responsibility to end this horrific abuse,” Wolf said. JBS, a Brazilian company, has over $50 billion in sales annually and is dominant in the beef, pork, and chicken sectors in the U.S. Wolf said she hasn’t been in touch with JBS, but “would definitely like to create a working relationship” with the company.

Tosh Farms is based in Tennessee but sells pigs in several states. The pork arm of Tosh Farms owns about 30,000 sows that produce around 750,000 hogs each year. The company sells to JBS through its Kentucky plant, and to Tyson in Indiana.

In November, California voters decide a ballot measure that would require cage-free housing for breeding pigs, egg-laying hens, and veal calves. It also would require companies that sell pork, eggs, and veal in the state, but are based elsewhere, to meet those standards. The state has already passed legislation to ban the sale of eggs from hens raised in battery cages.