June 21, 2013
A small group of protesters rallied in front of the Albemarle County Walmart on Friday morning, accusing the store of buying pork from suppliers who abuse pigs.
The group Mercy for Animals brought a 10-foot inflatable pig that was covered in sores and cramped in a crate.
"The hidden cost of Walmart's cheap pork is blatant animal abuse," said protester Jeni Haines.
The group claims that some Walmart suppliers are stuffing pregnant pigs into tiny crates. The group was distributing undercover video that showed animal mistreatment at a pig supplier the group claims works with Walmart. The video contained graphic images of diseased and bloody pigs.
"Keeping highly intelligent and social animals confined to cages that are so small they can't even turn around for nearly their entire lives is blatant animal cruelty," Haines said.
Scott McNabb noticed the protest as he drove by on Route 29, and he joined in.
"Most of us have feelings towards animals and concerns about the well-being of animals," McNabb said. "I try to avoid pork products. I am not a fanatic. I'm not a vegan or vegetarian."
The protesters argue that pigs suffer more than most confined animals because they are so smart.
"Pigs are just as intelligent and friendly as the dogs and cats that we all have at home," Haines said.
"They say the more intelligent an animal is, the more it suffers," said McNabb.
But Walmart officials say, the pigs they buy from suppliers are not suffering.
"We hold our suppliers to the highest standards and do not tolerate animal mistreatment," said Walmart spokesperson Danit Marquardt.
The National Pork Producers Council says the gestation crates meet veterinary guidelines, and keep the pregnant pigs from fighting.
"It's not a great way to live, but the reality of it is, they're food," said Gregory Helfer, a Walmart shopper.
Helfer says, when he buys meat, he doesn't pay much attention to how the animal is raised. "I look for what's on sale," he said.
Helfer doesn't want Walmart to change its methods because he is worried prices will go up.
"The limited-income people, they're not going to be able to afford it if they change the practice," Helfer said.
The protesters say they have already protested at Walmart stores in 135 different cities, and they will not stop until Walmart comes out against gestation crates.
"We are currently engaged with pork suppliers, food safety experts and other organizations to work towards an industry-wide model that is not only respectful of farmers and animals, but also meets our customers' expectations for quality and animal safety," said Marquardt.