Groups allege isle-bound pig mistreatment
Animal rights activists claim meat sold in Hawaii as "Island Produced Pork" often comes from mistreated pigs shipped in cramped, filthy containers from the mainland.
Animal protection groups launched a campaign Tuesday to stop the long-distance transport of livestock.
State agriculture officials say that while some pigs die on the voyage from California to Hawaii, they have not observed cruelty to animals.
The World Society for the Protection of Animals argues that it is inhumane to keep animals in shipping containers for a four- or five-day voyage when there is a possibility that some of them will die, said Dena Jones, the group's program manager.
"When they arrive in Honolulu, some are injured, some have lost weight because of inadequate food or dehydration and some are dead on arrival," Jones said. "To be shipping animals under these kinds of conditions with this kind of suffering in the 21st century just can't be justified."
A study of public records showed at least 218 pigs died during voyages to Hawaii between Sept. 1, 2006, and Aug. 31, for a 1.4 percent mortality rate, Jones said. That is about seven times higher than the 0.2 percent of pigs that typically die during transport nationwide, she said.
But agriculture inspectors dispute the idea that large numbers of pigs are dying on ships.
Only about 0.4 percent of pigs shipped to the islands between 2002 and 2007 died in transit, said Jason Moniz, program manager for livestock disease control at the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.
The coalition of animal protection groups called Handle with Care, which also includes the Humane Society and Born Free USA, is urging pig suppliers and retailers to either sell locally raised pigs or import chilled meat from the mainland.
Hawaii has no law restricting companies from labeling their pork as "island produced" even if the pigs were raised elsewhere and only slaughtered in the islands, said Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Janelle Saneishi.