(Reuters) - The Humane Society of the United States filed a legal complaint asserting that a national campaign that portrays the pork industry as ethical and humane is misleading consumers because of practices such as confining breeding pigs to small crates.
The complaint, filed with the Federal Trade Commission, charges that the National Pork Producers Council's We Care campaign and its Pork Quality Assurance Plus program obscure practices such as keeping breeding sows in so-called gestation crates, the Humane Society said in a press release on Wednesday.
Gestation crates are a 7-ft by 2-foot metal enclosure, in which a breeding pig, or sow, is kept for most of her adult life. Pork producers say the gestation crates are needed because sows that are housed together will fight.
The Humane Society, an animal protection organization that has decried the use of the crates, sought to stop the pork producers' group from continuing its ethical-pork campaign. The pork group said in a statement that it would review the complaint and that the Humane Society's charges were "absolutely false."
According to the Humane Society, about 70 percent of breeding sows in the United States are confined in these crates.
The group said major food companies such as McDonald's, Wendy's and others have pledged to eliminate gestation crates from their supply chains. Smithfield Foods and Hormel Foods will end the use of gestation crates by 2017, the Humane Society said.
The We Care initiative website says pork producers have committed to producing safe food, protecting animal well-being and offering a safe work environment. Pork Quality Assurance Plus is an education and certification program.
(Reporting By Emily Stephenson; editing by M.D. Golan)