Pig Adventure Is a Misadventure: McWilliams’ Open Letter to Fair Oaks Farms

Last week I asked esteemed journalist and agricultural history professor James McWilliams to write an open letter to the Northwest Indiana Times regarding their sensationalized coverage of the new Pig Adventure at Fair Oaks Farms. I want this letter to coincide with Pig Adventure’s highly-publicized grand opening on August 5th. The McWilliams letter, which is posted below, will soon be available online for those who would like to sign on and add their comments. We will deliver the signatures and comments posted to this open letter to both NWI as well as Fair Oaks Farms Communications Director, Jed Stockton.

Dear Editors,

Your paper’s recent coverage of Fair Oak Farm’s Pig Adventure (“Fair Oaks Farms Latest Innovation Goes Hog Wild,” July 21) was an egregious case of irresponsible journalism. Most notably, through a seemingly innocuous “local flavor” story, your article cynically obscured immense and unconscionable suffering, thereby abandoning any attempt to achieve balance and, in turn, doing a basic disservice to your readers.

My sense is that your readership, if it really knew exactly what pigs experience in the name of the agritourism you promote, would never tolerate such an “adventure,” much less your starry-eyed coverage of it. If I have learned anything as a writer who publishes widely in the mainstream media, it’s that reporters have an implicit but grave obligation to balance a celebratory approach to animal issues with an accurate overview of the ethical implications of confining and slaughtering animals for food we do not need.

Your piece, at the least, should have included the following information: a) pigs are emotionally astute animals whose intelligence level has been compared to five-year old humans; b) no matter how they are raised, pigs experience the pain and terror of slaughter with acute sensitivity; c) in most cases, even when they are “humanely” raised, pigs are castrated without anesthesia, affixed with nose rings (which makes rooting painful), and separated from their own tails, again, without anesthesia, all of which causes them to be depressed. By any standard, these facts strongly suggest that there is a dark side to the operation your article praises as being, among other things, educational for children.

Finally, what rankles most about your coverage of Fair Oaks’ Farm is how out of sync it is with the enlightened thrust of today’s journalistic standards. It’s truly rare  in an atmosphere of deep skepticism of factory farming to find a news outlet publishing pieces supportive of an animal operation that produces 250 pigs a day. This is an embarrassingly retrograde position to take, and one for which you owe readers, not to mention the animals you treat as playthings in the hands of profiteers, an apology.


James McWilliams.

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About Robert Grillo

Robert Grillo is the director of Free from Harm which he founded in 2009 to expose the food industry’s exploitation of animals and foster greater empathy for farmed animals. As an activist, author and speaker, Grillo focuses awareness on the animal’s experience and point of view, drawing on insights from sociology, psychology, popular culture, ethics and social justice to bridge the gap between humans and other animals. As a marketing communications professional for over 20 years, Grillo has worked on large food industry accounts where he acquired a behind-the-scenes perspective on food branding and marketing. His new book, Farm to Fable: The Fictions of Our Animal Consuming Culture, reveals how popular culture uses a variety of fictions that condition us to consume animal products and perpetuate fasle perceptions of animals that make us feel better about exploiting them


  1. We are losing our conscience which is becoming callous and hardened towards innocent animals. These animals are God’s creatures who were created for God, not us to abuse as we like for our appetites.
    Someday God will hold us accountable for every one.
    Jan Fredericks
    God’s Creatures Ministry

  2. This “Disneyland” approach to the hellish nightmare of industrialized animal slaughter is an egregious amoral affront — and were this Machiavellian fairy tale vision of “a happy pig farm” not so deluded and pathetically misguided it would almost be laughable: VISIT A HAPPY DEATH FACTORY and PLEASE TAKE YOUR KIDS ALONG….
    One can only hope that journalists will persist in their heroic efforts to expose industrial animal agriculture for the antiquated, brutal and environmentally destructive model it is and pray the American public will in time see the pathology inherent in the ruthlessness of this industry.
    One can also hope Americans will move towards advocating for a more compassionate vegan vision of life and come to value our Earth and all its non-human sentient beings as precious and miraculous — to this end a plant based diet must be in our future if we are to save our environment, our planet, our children and ourselves.

  3. This same as the new Predue chicken commercial on TV, I watch very little public TV, yet have seen this thing innumerable times…..an animation of chickens at table eating marigolds! That “we” have raised animals for a food source always is true, but now we make their entire lives HELL! I choose to live a plant based life, but I do understand how some feel that is impossible. The LEAST we can do is give animals a “happy” life and not subject them to such horrendous conditions, giving them “quick growth” diets that are unnatural for them, and making them live in filth with internal pain there whole lives! Businesses like Chipolte who, while serving meat from pigs, but who but only meat from “naturally raised, one bad day pigs” are making $$$, maybe not as much as the real factory farms, but at least those of us with a conscious can feel good about supporting their Buss. by buying a delicious vegan meal at one of their locations and showing support for their treatment of pigs!

    • Thank you Karen. As advocates for animals, I think it is important that we don’t offer meat eaters justifications for why they “can’t give up meat. They do this very well themselves and our dominant meat eating culture helps them at every turn. As advocates I believe we should instead be making the case for why we have no biological need for animal products and point them in the direction of all of the plant based meat and dairy products and meal ideas. A good place to start on the nutrition front is this: http://freefromharm.org/health-nutrition/catching-up-with-science-burying-the-humans-need-meat-argument/. And why “humane” alternatives are not humane at all: http://freefromharm.org/animal-products-and-ethics/a-comprehensive-analysis-of-the-humane-farming-myth/. Most people respond to the message of compassion if we give them a chance.

    • Karen,

      as Robert suggested, not consuming the flesh, milk or eggs of another is not a matter of choice or diet but instead is a moral imperative. just as we ourselves would not wish to be harmed or killed for the personal gratification of another, we should not force these conditions on others whom are helpless to prevent it-especially not for such a trival reason as a momentary taste sensation. the abuse, neglect and suffering are inevitable symptoms of treating other sentient beings as commodities and the solution is not to treat them a little better (less cruel in no way equates to humane-how is it possible to “humanely” murder someone?) but to stop exploiting them altogether.

      in addition, check out humanemyth.org to see why the “humane” animal product movement amounts to merely a labeling scheme while the non-human animal victims involved receive no different treatment or conditions. it is instead a way to help make consumers feel a little better about supporting the violence and murder perpetrated against those on thier dinner plate.

      “Animal agriculturalists, chefs, and consumers desperately want to believe the myth that animal products labeled organic, humane, and sustainable are morally and ecologically defensible. They promote the washings as cover for their beliefs. They choose not to see the abusive and unsustainable nature of meat, dairy, and eggs. They pledge allegiance to an adjustment to factory farming, nothing more.”

  4. This kind of “journalism” is another way of making people feel good and allowing them to experience no guilt about the food they refuse to give up. Some of the best reporting on animal agriculture results in howls of outrage from those who do not want to be disturbed by the facts.

  5. It is troubling that despite factual knowledge, access to cutting edge technology, exponential growth of public awareness, and absolute awareness by both corporate and small business food supply companies that we are still dragging our feet when it comes to implementing positive change in the cycle of producing and then providing foods derived from animals. We MUST CHANGE (legislative & ground level) the ‘true’ environments/circumstances that precede the foods we consume. Although the horrendous process of essentially torturing animals until slaughter ought to be enough to spark change; add in the large amount of peer reviewed research on the consumption of the majority of grocery store ‘foods’ – consistently showing negative health effects on humans – and the lack of change becomes astonishing. Please raise your voice and help!!

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