Smithfield Foods is the world’s largest pork processor.   According to Wikipedia, the company raises around 15 million pigs a year and in 2007 it slaughtered nearly 115,000 pigs each day.  Pork producers in the United States are highly industrialized.  Pigs are raised in something called a vertical integration system that enables the company to control the production of pork – from gestation to slaughter to meat processing.

Matthew Scully, author of the book Dominion writes: “About 80 million of the 95 million hogs slaughtered each year in America are intensively reared in mass-confinement farms, never once in their time on earth feeling soil or sunshine. “

In these so-called factory farms, pigs are raised in long, low, windowless sheds filled with row after row of two-foot-wide metal crates.  Beneath the cages are slatted concrete floors that enable the pig manure to fall through the slats into pits below.  Those pits are then flushed into lagoons, which become fertile breeding grounds for insects.

Can you even begin to imagine the horrible smell?

Throughout their short life, pigs are injected with minerals and given antibiotics to encourage faster growth.   Sometimes little piglets fall through the cracks in the crate floors and end up in the waste system below.  Often they are flushed into a city’s sewage system where their bodies clog up the pipes.

I realize that this is “just” an investment decision by Shuanghui International Holdings Ltd.  China is the world’s largest pork market. Therefore, Smithfield Foods Inc. will be cruelly raising even more pigs and adding more pollutants to our environment and hiring more and more undocumented workers to work in jobs that most American citizens wouldn’t put up with.

Two former employees at Smithfield’s in Utah quit their jobs because they couldn’t stand the cruelty any longer.  In an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune, the pair was quoted as saying that “if a piglet did not weigh at least five pounds after a week, it got beaten to death.  A worker had to grab the little pig by its hind legs and slam it into a wall or into the concrete floor.”

Agribusiness has pushed state legislatures to pass laws making it illegal to enter industrial animal facilities, let alone videotape what goes on. They do not want citizens to know about the horror that goes on.

What can we do as citizens who are worried about the treatment of animals, who are worried about the cleanliness of our environment, or who are worried about the work lives of the illegal immigrants?

We can protest the laws our legislators are making on behalf of agribusiness and stop pretending that the packaged meat we buy in the grocery store is a result of a clean, humane system.

But even more importantly, we can stop eating the products of the system.  We can stop eating ham and bacon and pork roasts and ribs. Not only will it be better for the plight of the piglets; it will be healthier for us.