On August 5, 2013, Fair Oaks Farms—the largest “agritourism” destination in the country— will celebrate Opening Day of Pig Adventure, a commercial breeding facility where 2700 sows are impregnated to produce 75,000 pigs for slaughter annually. Pig Adventure joins the Fair Oaks Dairy Adventure, a 36,000 cow dairy operation that has, since 2004, doubled as an “Agricultural Disney”; on daily tours, visitors can watch calves being born, cows being milked on giant mechanized carousels, and cheese being made, among many other dairy-themed spectacles. And now, with help from major agribusiness backers (including the Pork Checkoff and Indiana Pork), visitors can also oooh and ahh at the more than 200 piglets born daily, then head over to the farm’s full restaurant for a Bacon and Swiss Grilled Cheese.
There’s something very strange about the publicity pieces and videos that Fair Oaks Farms has been releasing to promote the Pig Adventure. If you were into self-deception, you could almost be fooled into thinking they were some kind of Pig Appreciation and Protection Society: from the tour buses plastered with images of smiling, adorable pink piglets, to the exuberant animated pig who narrates Pig Adventure’s website, to the reverential description, in the video above, of Pig Adventure’s breeding and confinement operation as “The Miracle of Life Project.”
Ah, the miracle of life. Now, I’m no farmer— but as I watch this video, something begins to seem a little off in the choice of terminology. A miracle? Really? But who puts a miracle in a cage?What part of confining female animals and subjecting them to an interminable cycle of sexual violation and reproductive exploitation is the miracle? An abject boar is literally chained to a robot programmed to drag him through endless Orwellian avenues of captive sows who, smelling the boar, are meant to become aroused, facilitating the forcible insertion of semen into their vaginas by their human captors. Seriously, I missed it. This video shows humans rubbing and sexually fondling restrained female pigs in order to enlarge the pigs’ vaginal openings and force semen into them. Which part is the miracle of life? And what makes it right to sexually violate other animals if it’s wrong to sexually violate other humans?
Fair Oaks Farms prides itself on transparency, promising to connect you with the story of your food. According to secretary/treasurer Jon Hoek, the point of Pig Adventure is for people to see that “pork production is morally right, a noble profession and a service to humanity.” But what’s morally right about breeding individuals into existence to exploit and slaughter them, not because we need to eat them—science tells us that we don’t—but simply because we can? What’s noble about harming and killing animals for a fleeting pleasure? And what happens to the truth when only one part of the story gets told? Because if you didn’t know to ask, you’d never learn what happens to the piglets at Fair Oaks Farms behind the scenes. We did ask, and we’re pretty sure the tour won’t show the Fair Oaks piglets being castrated without any prior painkiller, having their tails cut off, or their teeth cut out. These horrific mutilations, all inflicted without anesthesia, are standard industry practice on virtually all commercial pig farms, including Fair Oaks; and at least two—castration and ear notching— are practiced on most small farms as well.
Fair Oaks won’t be advertising that part of the “adventure” any time soon. So in the interest of telling the whole story, here’s footage from another farm showing how piglets are “processed” soon after birth.
Not convinced this is the reality?
Here are the same mutilations performed on piglets on a small, organic farm praised as a model of sustainability and humane farming practices. (See Part 3 for ear-notching).
Notice how the farmer, Karma Glos, refers to the experience of being brutally mutilated as a mere “stress” for the pigs. You have to wonder if that’s how she’d characterize things if she were in their place.