Sows confined in cramped cages known as gestation crates were fed ground up intestines from piglets who had recently succumbed to a highly contagious diarrheal disease, an undercover expose of Iron Maiden Hog Farm in Owensboro, Ky., revealed.
The Humane Society of the United States conducted the investigation and released the undercover video.
The organization said more than 900 piglets died from the diarrheal disease in a two-day period.
The animals’ intestines were ground up and fed back to their mothers and other sows, a practice prohibited by state law.
The HSUS, in releasing its evidence, called on the Kentucky Livestock Care Standards Commission, created to "establish, maintain, or revise standards governing the care and well-being" of farm animals, to end gestation crate confinement of pigs and to examine the practice of feeding diseased piglets to surviving pigs on the factory farm.
The HSUS also called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to examine the practice of feeding dead piglets to mother pigs.
The investigation at Iron Maiden Hog Farm found:
• Animals locked in cages so small, they couldn’t even turn around for essentially their entire lives.
• Intestines of piglets who died from severe diarrhea — a highly contagious disease plaguing pig facilities nationwide — were routinely fed back to their mothers and other breeding females.
• Piglets left to die — often suffering for days. Over a 2-3 day period more than 900 piglets died of the highly contagious diarrheal disease.
• Sick and injured sows left without care, including one sow who suffered from an extreme uterine prolapse for nearly two days before finally dying.
• Lame sows — whose hind legs became too weak from strict confinement to support their weight — "hobbled" to keep their legs from splaying. Their legs are bound together so they could stand in their crates.
“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,” said Paul Shapiro, vice president of farm animal protection at the Humane Society.
The organization’s president and CEO, Wayne Pacelle, added, “Routine practices at many hog factories—immobilizing sows for their entire lives, feeding dead pigs to live pigs, denying medical treatment to injured or ailing animals — just don’t sit well with American consumers. This industry is long overdue for a major course correction, and we hope this investigation triggers an examination at what’s happening behind closed doors on factory farms.”