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Pig farmers are guilty of cruelty to animals

I strongly object to letter writer Rick Berman's views regarding the "humane" treatment of pregnant pigs ("Pregnant pigs treated humanely," Sept. 22).

No reasonable person objects to pregnant pigs being kept in separate pens, but you don't need to be a pig farmer to realize that the gestation crates used by big agribusiness (euphemistically called "maternity pens" in Mr. Berman's letter) are cruel, no question about it.

These iron-barred crates are so small they do not permit the pig to lie down or turn around, and the animals are confined inside them for months on end. Many pigs confined in these crates become so stressed that they resort to self-destructive behaviors.

So-called "expert" organizations such as the American Association of Swine Veterinarians exist not so much for the pigs' welfare as to find ways to keep costs down for hog farmers. Pigs represent money to the farmers, not sentient beings capable of feeling pain, fear and stress.

It is fashionable among industry "experts" to label animal welfare activists as wild-eyed, sign-waving kooks, a label I will wear proudly if it means raising awareness of animal cruelty in the meat industry. Dismissing such concerns with statements such as "they're just animals" reveals a breathtaking lack of compassion.

We humans are supposed to be the "superior species," yet some of the methods used in the meat industry to keep costs down would do the Marquis de Sade proud.

Fortunately, some small local farmers are embracing more humane methods of animal husbandry. That may mean spending a bit more, but it's worth it knowing the animal did not spend a its short lifetime in misery.

Reine Rush, Hanover

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