Protesters call out Wal-Mart for animal cruelty


May 20, 2013 at 12:20 a.m.
Updated May 21, 2013 at 12:21 a.m.

Pigs didn't fly Monday, but with late morning winds, it wasn't completely out of the question.

A 10-foot-tall inflatable pig, covered in sores and locked in a dirty cage met Wal-Mart Supercenter shoppers who entered the parking lot off Glascow Street.

The display was an effort by animal activist group Mercy For Animals to protest the treatment of pregnant sows by one of Wal-Mart's main pork suppliers, said Jeni Haines, the organization's national campaign coordinator. Victoria was the 115th Wal-Mart stop on the group's nationwide tour.

Numerous investigations have found the pregnant pigs are kept in filthy crates so small they can't turn around or lie down comfortably, she said. They remain there nearly their entire lives.

"The hidden cost of Wal-Mart's cheap pork is blatant animal abuse," she said, noting such practices are banned in nine states already. "We are encouraging Wal-Mart to use their power and assume the responsibility and start sourcing their pork from producers who don't use gestation crates."

Other companies, including Costco, Kroger and McDonald's, require suppliers to phase out gestation crates, she said, and Wal-Mart Canada followed suit a couple of weeks ago.

Bill Palmer, Wal-Mart's store manager, said the issue is complicated and there are different points of view.

"We do hold our supplier to the highest standard, and we do not tolerate animal cruelty," he said inside the store.

Lisa Hines, tour assistant with Mercy for Animals, found herself holding down the inflatable pig to keep the wind from toppling it over or taking it away.

She first got involved in animal rights after a mealtime gone awry.

Hines was about 12 when she went to make her father breakfast in bed. When she cracked an egg open, she was shocked to find it fertilized.

A small chick fell out.

"That can be traumatizing," she said as cars drove past, slowing for a glimpse at the display, "especially when you're so young."

She later became vegan, she explained, and began researching where her food came from. Through her work now, she said, she can also educate others.

Terresa Geffert, a Victoria resident who ventured to Wal-Mart on Monday for a bit of shopping, said displays like the one Mercy For Animals set up don't bother her.

She grew up in agriculture - one set of grandparents had a pig farm, the other set a dairy - and she is accustomed to the practices.

"They were raised to be eaten," the oil-field worker said of the animals. "You can have your pets, just don't name the ones you want to eat."

Still, Geffert said, certain protest methods don't sit well with her.

Years ago, when she lived in Dallas, she came across a group slinging blood around.

"That, that bothered me," Geffert, 46, said with a nod.

Earlene Nielsen, a van driver with the Veteran's Affairs Outpatient Clinic in Victoria, said she was more concerned with people asking for money in store parking lots than she was with the pigs. Other issues close to her heart, she said, include abortion, puppy mills and the nation's veterans.

Oftentimes, she said, protestors are simply looking for problems. And when that happens, they're going to find them.

"My attitude is of the old adage that, 'If you don't like it, don't look at it, don't eat it,'" Nielsen, 66, said.



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