Guest Opinion: UC Pig Cruelty

As students, alumni and faculty of the UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UC Hastings, UC Irvine and UCLA Schools of Law, we are writing to urge the UC Regents to cease their support and participation in the cruel confinement of pigs at the annual California State Fair.

Recently, we were horrified to learn that pregnant and nursing pigs at the UC-sponsored State Fair are confined for more than three weeks in crates that restrict the pigs’ movement to such a degree that they cannot even turn around or extend their limbs. The pigs are not provided with bedding material to protect their skin from the metal flooring, causing them significant discomfort and frustrating their maternal nesting instincts. The pigs suffer like this, restless and depressed, chewing the metal bars of their crates, for the entire three-week duration of the fair, without so much as a single break to stretch their legs.

The pigs also endure needless suffering before the fair even begins, as pigs are transported to the fair in the last two weeks of their pregnancies, a stressful process that can cause the pigs to abort. If the unborn piglets survive the transport, the mothers are then forced to give birth with a crowd of strangers looking on just four feet away, causing additional suffering as pigs have a strong instinct to isolate themselves before, during and after birthing the piglets.

There is simply no justification for this cruel practice, be it legal or scientific. California Penal Code § 597t prohibits the confinement of any animal without adequate exercise. Moreover, studies have shown that piglet mortality rates are lower when open pens are employed. The Alameda County Fair, for example, provides open pens instead of farrowing crates, precisely because doing so enhances the welfare of both the sow and her piglets.

The UC-sponsored State Fair purports to provide “big fun” and “education” to “inspire the young and young at heart,” but animal suffering is not “big fun,” and sharing methods for causing such suffering is not the kind of education we value in the UC system. By propagating this outdated and illegal cruelty with taxpayer dollars, the UC Regents are acting in direct conflict with UC system’s stated mission of “transmitting advanced knowledge and discovering new knowledge.” In fact, the modern day trend is just the opposite, with more and more farmers moving toward humane, environmentally friendly alternatives such as open pens. And yet, rather than simply ceasing this cruel and illegal practice, the UC Regents are expending taxpayer resources to defend it in court.

Through the use of open pens, the Alameda County Fair provides persons in attendance with a far better educational experience than does the Regent-sponsored State Fair: open pens allow the public to observe pigs’ natural behaviors while also conveying the importance of respecting all animals (and in particular those we exploit for food). As for “big fun,” if you asked a child whether he or she would rather watch a pig frolic in the mud or lay straight-jacketed in a metal crate, the child would invariably opt for mud.

As members of the UC community, we are ashamed to be affiliated with this cruelty. We ask that the UC Regents follow the lead of the Alameda County Fair by switching from inhumane farrowing crates to open pens. Until taking that step, the UC Regents continue to besmirch the good name of the UC system and each of us within it.

On behalf of over 100 UC Law Student, Alumni and Faculty Signatories:

National Lawyers Guild Chapter, UC Davis School of Law

People for the Elimination of Animal Cruelty through Education “P.E.A.C.E.”, UC Davis

Gillian Kuhlmann, Elizabeth Tissot, UC Irvine School of Law

Rebekah DeHaven, Matthew Hamity, UC Berkeley School of Law

Kelsey Rinehart, UCLA School of Law

Mary Vegher, Angel Korer, Megan Miller, UC Hastings School of Law

2 Comments

  • AggieDVM
    February 22, 2014

    In addition to the previous comments, I would like to add just a couple more. Further clarifying the farrowing crates, the sows can indeed stand up, sit down and lie down on either side. They also have free access to feed and water. As far as the need for exercise, sows in last part of gestation and the onset of lactation are at their highest level of energy demand. Using energy for exercise is not a priority. Even in open pen scenarios, the sows spend the large majority of their time sleeping and resting, only getting up to eat, drink and relieve themselves; all of which can be accomplished by sows in farrowing crates and open pens alike.

  • AggieChica
    February 22, 2014

    Dear Ms. Batanides and fellow activists,

    I would like to start my response with your quotation, “By propagating this outdated and illegal cruelty with taxpayer dollars, the UC Regents are acting in direct conflict with UC system’s stated mission of ‘transmitting advanced knowledge and discovering new knowledge.’” In a mission to seek “advanced knowledge and discover new knowledge,” I would kindly ask yourself and your peers to look at historical methods of hog production and compare it against what society presently offers and where the industry is going in the future. This should be done through unbiased and educational forums to give a balanced view of the situation. Similarly, please evaluate the status of Alameda County Fair and similar programs to understand that the piglets and sow on display are not farrowed on site nor are they newborns. They are at least a month old typically which means they are less dependent on the sow for milk, are eating more stable foods, and are better at self regulating their body temperature. These alone are key aspects to maintain the safety and survivability in younger piglets. Typically sows being upwards of 500 pounds and a single piglet only being a pound or less at birth, not to mention that there can be anywhere from 3 to 21 piglets per litter, means it is very hard for the sow to not only watch all of her young but also to slow her mass from crushing them on accident when laying down. Inhibiting the use of farrowing crates at the California State Fair is also inhibiting an inexperienced public audience from the knowledge it holds as well. A more appropriate resolution based on the UC mission to transmit advanced knowledge would be to show multiple farrowing methods not just the one that appeases your personal appeals. For example, farrowing crates, nesting boxes, and open pens with heat lamp and creep accessibility maintain a higher level of piglet survivability and hold equal importance in the industry.

    I would also like to address your claims that the sows are constrained to these farrowing crates for 3 weeks or more during the length of the fair. This is an inaccurate claim on your behalf that should really be looked into further before not only stating in the UC Davis newspaper but also in other arenas. As someone who has never worked with this exhibit, it is hard for you to understand all of the precautions and care we take for the animals we show, but I can assure you that they are not in the farrowing crates nor are they on display for the entire term of the fair. Perhaps if you also utilized some of your advanced knowledge to learn ear notching numbers and other physical characteristics of each sow you would see that they do in fact change over the length of the exhibit.

    Likewise, in regard to the penal code you have cited, the exercise area is not defined as to how much they need. Sows are able to stand, switch which side they are laying on, move forward, and back, and have ample access to food, water, and at the UC exhibit also have access to misters and fans to keep them cool. I further would like to cite the penal code to you, although I’m sure you have read it in full, “597t. Every person who keeps an animal confined in an enclosed area shall provide it with an adequate exercise area. If the animal is restricted by a leash, rope, or chain, the leash, rope, or chain shall be affixed in such a manner that it will prevent the animal from becoming entangled or injured and permit the animal’s access to adequate shelter, food, and water. Violation of this section constitutes a misdemeanor. This section shall not apply to an animal which is in transit, in a vehicle, or in the immediate control of a person.597t. Every person who keeps an animal confined in an enclosed area shall provide it with an adequate exercise area. If the animal is restricted by a leash, rope, or chain, the leash, rope, or chain shall be affixed in such a manner that it will prevent the animal from becoming entangled or injured and permit the animal’s access to adequate shelter, food, and water. Violation of this section constitutes a misdemeanor. This section shall not apply to an animal which is in transit, in a vehicle, or in the immediate control of a person.” In relation to the UC exhibit, the sows (as well as our other animals) could be considered to be within “immediate control” as we do have personnel on site to monitor their well being around the clock.

    Finally, I would like to state that farrowing crates have been proven to increase piglet survivability by 90% due mainly to limitations in cannibalism and crushing. As a person who has held multiple agriculture positions throughout California and has worked with and for numerous California fairs I urge you to do two key things: 1) research piglet survivability and farrowing crates through unbiased and educationally sound sources because if I could ask a child “would you rather see a bunch of piglets running around or see several crushed?” I firmly believe they would choose the first, and 2) please understand that in the quest to advance not only our personal knowledge but that of our peers and those in our community it is important to respect, honor, and share all views even if they may seem unsightly to some there is typically a method to the madness that would gladly have light shed upon it. Please don’t fall so far down the rabbit hole in a personal quest that obviously has not been well researched, especially in regards to some very specific claims, that you destroy some of the Sacramento and outlying areas chances to understand livestock production up close. This exhibit is a rare opportunity and guests have traveled from all over the state for an opportunity to see livestock born in our nursery.

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