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Would You Get An Organ Transplant from a Pig? Smithfield Foods is Banking on it!

Smithfield Foods is selling pig parts for skin and organ transplants. 

The world’s largest producer of pork products, Smithfield Foods, has just announced they have created a bioscience unit that will supply pig parts for medical purposes. This division is completely separate from their packaged meat category and will deal primarily in the organ transplant market.


Currently, the number of humans awaiting organ transplants greatly exceeds the number of organs that are available.  So many are viewing the option of harvesting organs from pigs as a viable, new alternative.


However, many are citing the ethical concerns of harvesting organs from farmed animals to transplant into human beings. We all know that pig valves are used in heart patients, so what’s the difference? Well, there is a big one!


In pig factory farming for food, pigs can be raised in unsanitary conditions and are subject to over-crowding. They are often confined to small metal crates and are forced to lie on wet floors that are covered in feces and urine.  Female pigs are artificially inseminated and are placed in “gestation crates” that are so small they can’t turn around or lie down comfortably. This leads to ulcers, sores and other health problems.


Pigs are often abused through negative interactions with handlers that can include slapping, punching and kicking.  This can also include killing them not during the butchering process.


The owners who raise pigs for medical purposes often have to adhere to a strict set of guidelines and standards that must be met each month.  For example, temperatures within the barns must be kept at a certain temperature and are not allowed to go below this number.  They must keep notes of following through with certain protocols to ensure traceability. They also track batches of feed used for the pigs to ensure no bone meal is used to feed them. This is how mad cow disease can be transmitted.  Hence, the companies that order medical parts from pigs require precise diets for them.  Also, they consider the area where the pigs live to be biosecurity zones. This means that any employee or visitor must shower before entering and leaving the area to ensure no bacteria is brought in or removed.


Smithfield Foods has come under fire in the past for poor conditions that their animals were housed in. This includes animals being beaten and dragged and others having their eyes gouged out and testicles cut off in a 2007 investigation launched by a local prosecutor in North Carolina.

And in 2010, they were cited for not phasing out “gestation crates” that are only 2 feet by 7 feet in size.


Smithfield Foods kills 16 million pigs annually. And it already uses materials harvested from these pigs for medical use. The byproducts from the pork industry in the US market alone already equates to over $100 billion. This total does not include the future financial profit from harvesting pig organs for human use.


Courtney Stanton, vice president of Smithfield Foods’ bioscience department, told Reuters in a recent interview, “We want to signal to the medical device and science communities that this is an area we’re focused on- that we’re not strictly packers.”


However, many are asking should any animal be used for the sole purpose of benefitting humans?  And are we compromising our humanity by harvesting pigs for meat and organs?


Do YOU believe this is ethical? And if so, why?


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