BREWER, Maine — A group of animal rights activists braved the summer heat Friday morning to protest what they describe as cruelty to animals allegedly practiced by Walmart’S pork suppliers.
Jeni Haines, national campaign coordinator for Mercy for Animals, organized a demonstration in front of Walmart in Brewer protesting the company’s failure to address mistreatment of pigs by its suppliers.
The demonstration featured a 10-foot-tall inflatable pig locked in a narrow gestation cage which protesters say the company uses to confine pigs that are used for pork.
Haines said the space the pigs are confined in is so small that they can’t engage in normal activities.
“They can’t even turn around or lie down comfortably for nearly their entire lives,” she said. “These pigs are confined to these filthy metal crates.”
Even though only three demonstrators were standing in front of the inflatable pig with signs, multiple cars driving along Route 1A honked horns in reaction.
The demonstrators included Kathy Taylor and her husband, Tom, of Orono.
“We’re not against people eating pork. We’re against how the pigs are treated,” Kathy Taylor said. “This whole thing is an education process.”
An assistant manager at the Brewer location declined to comment. Walmart spokeswoman Danit Marquardt released an email statement regarding the issue.
“This is a complicated issue,” Marquardt said in the statement. “We’re listening closely to points of view from farmers, food manufacturers, animal rights organizations, customers and others. We think constructive dialogue and a collaborative approach is the right path to the right solution.
“We hold our suppliers to the highest standards and do not tolerate animal mistreatment. 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.”
Haines said her campaign has traveled to 140 Walmart locations throughout the country, including a stop in Scarborough on Wednesday that brought out five demonstrators, hoping to send a message to company executives.
“Many major food suppliers including Burger King and McDonald’s have demanded their suppliers don’t use the crates,” Haines said. “It’s time for Walmart to follow the lead of Costco, Kroger and other competitors.”
Haines noted suppliers for those companies don’t use gestation cages to store pigs. The use of gestation cages has been banned in Florida, Arizona, Maine, Oregon, Colorado, Michigan, California and Rhode Island.
Haines also believes consumers who purchase pork have a right to know where the meat comes from.
“As Americans we have the right to know where our food is coming from,” she said. “We also want to send a powerful message to Walmart that people don’t stand for animal abuse.”
Even though just a few people came out Friday, Haines is hoping the message will continue to spread.
“Sometimes we have 30 protestors and sometimes we have just a few,” she said. “Consistently we’re sending this powerful message to Walmart.”
Haines said her next stop is upstate New York.