A new undercover exposé reveals the horrific treatment sows endure at a Kentucky factory farm, where they are confined to gestation crates and fed the remains of piglets. According to footage released by the Humane Society, pigs at the Iron Maiden Hog Farm in Owensboro, Kentucky are subject to cramped, unsanitary and inhumane conditions that have led to the deaths of hundreds of animals. HSUS found the farm's practices -- specifically, feeding the pureed intestines of dead piglets to older breeding pigs -- to be prevalent throughout the industrial pig farming sector.
According to the report,within a two-day period during HSUS's investigation, 900 piglets died of a highly contagious disease, Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus, which has spread widely throughout factory farms since its initial outbreak last year. HSUS estimates that millions of pigs have died of the disease since April 2013, though the risk of infection is significantly higher at industrial farming operations where pigs are raised in stifling indoor conditions.
At Iron Maiden, HSUS found pigs locked in cages so small they were unable to turn around, in addition to sick and injured sows who had been left to die without treatment and animals who had had their legs bound together inside their crates, to keep them standing when they otherwise would have collapsed.
HSUS claims that Iron Maiden is one of a number of factory farms that uses dead pigs as feed, ostensibly to inoculate surviving livestock against the virus. But the practice of feeding diseased piglets to sows is prohibited by Kentucky law, though it has not yet been banned on a federal level. HSUS is urging the USDA to put an end to the practice.
"The entire atmosphere at this facility is awful for animals, many of whom are perpetually immobilized and suffering from body sores, diarrhea attacks and prolapsed uteruses," Paul Shapiro, vice president of farm animal protection at HSUS, said in a statement.
In an effort to combat such heinous treatment, a number of major food companies -- including McDonald's, Burger King, Chipotle, Costco and Target -- have mandated that meat providers stop relying on confinement practices, while major pork producers like Smithfield, Cargill and Tyson have made efforts to eliminate the use of gestation crates and other heavily criticized techniques from their farms.