This is about as unappetizing a meal as you could get. The Humane Society has exposed a method of dealing with the fast-spreading porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) that's killed more than 2 million piglets since April: Grind up the intestines of piglets that succumbed to it, and feed the "piglet smoothie" to the sows—some of which could be the dead piglets' own mothers, NPR reports. A video of the practice, filmed this year at Iron Maiden Hog Farm in Kentucky, can be found here, but be warned, it's very graphic. "It's beyond disturbing seeing piglets being prepared for this process," an activist narrates on the video, which also shows pigs confined to small gestation crates that block movement.
The Humane Society also saw 900 piglets die of the virus in two days, sometimes suffering for days, while some sows' legs were tied together with rope that cut into their flesh; in some cases, their skin grew over the rope. Feeding dead pigs to live ones is illegal in Kentucky, the society says—it may also violate federal law—but some hog farmers and vets say the practice is the only way to keep PEDV from destroying the US hog supply as there's no vaccine to give sows to keep piglets from contracting it. Says one vet: "When I'm faced with the choice of seeing and carrying hundreds of dead baby pigs out of a barn or overcoming the 'ick factor,' I'm going to get over that 'ick factor,' because my goal is to save lives." (Read more Humane Society stories.)