As mentioned in "No imported, live pigs for 2 supermarkets" (The Maui News, Sept. 22), the Foodland Super Market and Times Supermarkets chains recently joined Costco and Safeway by switching to pork from pigs slaughtered on the Mainland. Now it's time for other businesses in Hawaii to make the same change and end the long-distance transport of live pigs.
Hawaii supermarket chains, restaurants and other food businesses can no longer justify using pork from pigs that are transported live from the Mainland and then slaughtered in Hawaii. The negative impacts are too substantial and the alternatives are readily available.
A transported pig's journey begins with a nearly 24-hour-long truck ride from Iowa, Montana or South Dakota to a holding facility in Vacaville, Calif. Hundreds of pigs are kept at this facility for several hours before being transported, via truck, to the Port of Oakland.
The pigs are then crammed onto a vessel where they are provided neither straw nor other bedding to protect them from extreme temperatures or slippery flooring. There is only one livestock attendant onboard responsible for caring for as many as 920 pigs. For approximately five days, the animals are forced to live in their own feces, urine and vomit, and even amid the corpses of other pigs until the dead animals are thrown overboard by the livestock attendant.
Upon arriving in Honolulu, it is usually several hours before the pigs are unloaded from the ship. They are left suffering in the heat with minimal ventilation before they are transported, via truck, to the Hawaii Livestock Cooperative slaughterhouse, which has been cited numerous times by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the inhumane handling and slaughter of animals, where they are slaughtered and processed.
As if the extreme animal suffering weren't enough, scientists, as well as health and food safety officials, have noted that the stress of long-distance transport of live animals increases the animals' susceptibility to disease. This, in turn, increases the risk of food-borne illness and disease transmission to humans who consume meat from these animals
Fortunately, shipping live pigs is unnecessary because chilled or frozen meat and whole carcasses are readily available, as well as pork from locally raised animals. Foodland, Times, Safeway and Costco are all using these sources for procuring their pork products, and they should be commended for their ethics and social responsibility.
As Times President Bob Stout stated, "We have an obligation as a retailer to do the right thing while servicing our customers. In this case, we are doing precisely that - changing to a more humane method of procuring pork and, at the same time, providing our customers with what they want."
With more and more businesses refusing to sell pork from pigs shipped from the Mainland, it is time for others to follow suit.
* Laurelee Blanchard is a long-distance transport consultant for the World Society for the Protection of Animals. She lives in Haiku.