Have you noticed a huge increase in the price of pork chops or bacon or hot dogs?

Neither have I, despite the fact that sow gestation stalls, or crates or whatever you may call them in your neighborhood, are disappearing.  The stalls are basically where pregnant sows are kept. Anti-science hippies who are always looking for ammunition in their war on human food contend big business uses these crates because they are, you know, eeeevil, but that isn't true.  Long before Big Pork even existed farmers kept sows apart because they fight.  And during pregnancy, if you screw with a female pig, you are asking to roll in the mud.   The American Veterinary Medical Association says stalls are safer and therefore better than pens(1).

You can't build apartments for pigs and farmers feed a lot of people so space is at a premium.  Crates make some sense in that regard, but sows are pregnant a lot, which means they spend a lot of time in them. It was only a matter of time before people began to question their use. Smart activists did not hire lobbyists to hammer the public over the head with ridiculously partisan laws, like in the current effort to exempt organic food from GM warning labels. Nor did they ironically act like PETA and exploit naked, human women in order to make the case for not exploiting dead fish. Most of them instead made the case that there had to be a better way.

Over time, the public agreed and then governments took some action - normal states too, not progressive enclaves in love with passing new laws to regulate all conduct, like California.  Florida ended the use of crates 10 years ago and eight other states have followed suit.  But it probably is not necessary.  Business listens to their customers - there is no point hiring lobbyists about public opinion - and customers more and more want them gone.

America's largest pork supplier, Smithfield Foods, began phasing them out in 2007 due to pressure from McDonald's.  McDonald's, commonly reviled by progressive zealots, is actually a world leader on animal welfare issues. Earlier this year they declared that everyone they buy from was going crate-free.  McDonald's is immune to hysterical protesters who don't buy their food anyway so it wasn't vegetarians mailing our brochures and raising money that did it. Despite bizarre claims by activists - that all of the corporate world (and the academic world also, when it comes to food, vaccines, etc.) is made up of unthinking automatons - the human beings at McDonald's were not convinced crates are the only way now.  Science has progressed. 

Now Heinz is doing the same thing, despite the fact that Big Government is not forcing them to do it. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is claiming they are bringing these companies to their knees but, honestly, no one in the public is listening to some crank group that is determined to end all animal agriculture.  Standing on a podium with them is just good public relations.

The reason it is best to let customers make these demands rather than government?  A large company like Smithfield has a lot of ways to optimize their margins but small farmers do not. In a bad economy more punitive anti-business laws that accomplish little impact them most and should be avoided.  But the customers of farmers can make any demands they want and that is just fine.


(1) PETA hates veterinarians, people who save animals, as much as they hate people who eat meat. The Pike's Place fish toss was for the AVMA. But you know who they love? Mass-murdering sociopaths like darling-of-the-dangerous-left Che Guevara.  Here is his granddaughter Lydia dressed to kill human carnivores:

Credit: PETA