Animal rights advocates are welcoming news that Smithfield Foods is on track to phase out the use of small metal crates for pregnant hogs. The company said in a statement it will end the practice by 2017. The non-profit Humane Society filed a federal complaint against Smithfield a month ago.
Spokesman Paul Shapiro says the so-called "gestation crates" amount to animal cruelty.
Paul Shapiro: "We're talking about immobilizing 500 pound social, intelligent animals in cages that are so restrictive, the animals are unable even to turn around for months and months on end. I mean, it's not like these are just temporary holding kennels. These are their lives, 24/7."
Smithfield Foods says it will end the practice by 2017.
Shapiro: "We'd like to see faster progress than that, but considering the fact that no other major pork producer in the country has made any type of similar commitment to stop perpetrating this type of animal cruelty in these gestation crates, it's certainly welcome news."
Virginia-based Smithfield Foods is the world's largest pork producer and runs the world's largest meat-processing plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina.