iowa pigs

Cruelty Exposed at Pig Breeding Factory Farm Hormel Supplier

February 15, 2012

DES MOINES, Iowa – Undercover video footage exposing animal abuse and suffering inside Hawkeye Sow Centers (HSC), a pig breeding factory farm in Leland, Iowa, is being released today by animal protection organization Compassion Over Killing (COK). The video was filmed by a COK investigator who worked at the facility in December 2011 and wore a hidden camera to document the day-to-day miseries forced upon thousands of female pigs and their piglets.

Iowa is the largest pork-producing state in the U.S., and agribusiness interests are currently trying to pass an “ag-gag” law (HR-589/SF-431) in the state to effectively make whistleblowing exposes on factory farms, like this investigation, illegal. COK’s video exposes standard industry practices that the industry is desperately trying to hide, including:

  • Pregnant and nursing pigs nearly immobilized in tiny crates, unable to even turn around
  • Piglets screaming while workers slice off their tails and cut out the males’ genitals without any pain relief
  • Poorly performed castrations that resulted in herniated intestines
  • Workers pushing the herniated intestines back inside the piglets, then wrapping the area with tape
  • Countless sick or injured piglets left to suffer without veterinary care, many of whom later died
  • Forced cannibalism: intestines from dead piglets are turned into “gruel” to feed back to pigs
  • Layers of feces caked on the floor of crates and filthy, fly-infested conditions

As our investigator was told, many of the piglets born at this facility will end up on store shelves under the brand name Hormel. While Hormel recently issued a statement that its company-owned facilities will be phasing out gestation crates, it did not commit to extending this welfare policy to the hundreds of independently-run facilities that ultimately supply Hormel, like HSC, which comprise the majority of Hormel’s pork.

With the news this week that McDonald’s – one of the biggest buyers of pork in the US – is moving to end gestation crate confinement of pigs in its US supply chain, the writing for this inhumane practice is on the wall. It’s time for Hormel to end the use of cruel gestation crates in its entire supply chain.

There’s also no disputing that without anesthesia, male piglets endure immense pain when their testicles are ripped from their bodies. Welfare concerns have prompted Switzerland and Norway to ban this barbaric process, and many other countries have implemented alternatives – alternatives which are also available in the US and should immediately implemented by the pork industry here as well.

“When it comes to the meat industry, animal cruelty is standard practice,” says COK’s executive director Erica Meier. “And rather than try to prevent the worst abuses, Big Agribusiness is trying to prevent Americans from finding out about them with ag-gag bills designed to ban these exposes.”

The most effective way consumers can stand up for animals and help stop the cruelty is to simply leave pigs, and all animals, off our plates.

For more information, including investigative footage and photos, visit


Compassion Over Killing (COK) is a nonprofit animal protection organization based in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Since 1995, COK has worked to end the abuse of animals in agriculture through undercover investigations, public outreach, litigation, and other advocacy programs. COK is on the web at