Smithfield Foods, the largest pork producer in the nation, appears to have broken their promise to phase out cruel gestation crates in their facilities.

In 2007, this company declared that they would discontinue the use of these inhumane devices, which confine mother pigs into areas so small that they cannot even turn around. This year they followed up by announcing that they had successfully transitioned all pregnant pigs away from sow stalls into group housing enclosures.

“Smithfield’s leadership in animal care is reflected in today’s landmark announcement,” stated Kenneth M. Sullivan, president and CEO of Smithfield Foods. “Achieving this goal is a testament to the fact that, at Smithfield, we keep our promises.”

Shockingly, a recent report by animal welfare organisation Direct Action Everywhere (DxE), following an underground investigation, alleges that Smithfield continue to use gestation crates for pigs.

They released photos and video footage from inside the pig farms, showing both pregnant sows and sows that have already given birth confined to these barbaric stalls.

This is in direct contrast to Smithfield’s claim that pigs will only remain in the crates for insemination, then moved to group housing for the duration of the pregnancy, then transferred to farrowing crates after giving birth.

“Smithfield’s press release from 10 years ago indicated that it would be phasing out crates, not used for a different purpose. They are conceding now that did not happen,” said Wayne Hsiung, DxE’s chief organizer. “In virtually every instance where we’ve exposed a factory farm, they claim there is a mythical ‘humane barn’ where the animals were well treated,” said Hsiung. “The reality is that they must do this because the public does not have a stomach for animal torture.”

Gestation crates have been widely criticized by animal welfare experts for yearss.

“The close confinement of sows in stalls or tethers is one of the most extreme examples of cruelty to an animal. It continues throughout much of life and is much worse than severely beating an animal or most laboratory experiments,” Donald M. Broom, Professor of Animal Welfare at the University of Cambridge, stated in a report.

Gestation crating has already been banned or is being phased out in Arizona, California, Florida and Massachusetts, with six more states following suit. However, Iowa, North Carolina and Minnesota, states which collectively house over 50 percent of the nation’s pigs, have no such laws.

Meat suppliers such as Smithfield must be held accountable to the promises they make, and concerned consumers need to push local governments to change their animal protection laws in order to help these innocent animals.

The evidence is clear — the best way to ensure that your plate is truly cruelty free is to follow a plant-based diet.