Animal welfare demonstrators caught motorists' and shoppers' attention Monday morning along Watertown's busy Arsenal Street. A giant balloon showed a bruised and wounded pig confined to a tiny metal crate, and two activists held a sign reading, “Walmart tortures pigs” on the grassy median in front of Watertown's Walmart store.
Jeni Haines is national campaign coordinator for Los Angeles-based Mercy for Animals. The advocacy group works to improve conditions on factory farms. Haines said the Watertown stop was part of a national tour. The goal is to pressure Walmart stores to ban the use of gestation crates for pregnant sows on their pork suppliers' farms.
"Walmart, which is such a huge corporation – so many people buy their groceries at Walmart – by getting them to phase out the use of gestation crates, this will have a huge impact on the lives of millions of pigs," Haines said.
“Gestation crates” are metal pens just bigger than a pig's body where factory farms confine pregnant sows for most of their lives. The crates are too small for the animals to walk, lay down comfortably or turn around.
During their brief morning protest, Haines and her colleague waved at motorists who honked their support, and spoke with several curious Walmart shoppers, urging them to sign petitions and boycott Walmart until its policies change.
The women said one retired local hog farmer took particular interest in the cause. The demonstrators continue their tour in Syracuse today.