Chickens aren't the only animals getting gassed amid the coronavirus pandemic. As the New York Times reports, American pork producers are killing and disposing of hundreds of thousands of pigs "without processing them into food." Closures of meatpacking plants mean there's a backlog of pigs waiting for slaughter. And farmers say there isn't enough space to house them or money to feed them. While cattle roam pastures, pigs are raised in temperature-controlled buildings and have an expected lifespan of six months, at which point they're slaughtered to make room for a new generation, per Reuters. Now there's nowhere for them to go. And if they keep eating, they'll reaching a weight unsafe for handling in meatpacking plants. Even with farmers trying to slow the growth, Iowa's backlog is expected to top 600,000 pigs over the next six weeks, per the Times.
An estimated 90,000 pigs have already been killed in Minnesota. One farmer used carbon dioxide; another shot 3,000 pigs in the head—a daylong task. Reuters describes another injecting pregnant sows to cause abortions. The economic losses are huge—up to $390,000 per day, per the Times—but there's mental anguish, too. "There are farmers who cannot finish their sentences when they talk about what they have to do," one pig farmer says. "There will be suicides in rural America." Thirteen senators from both sides of the aisle are now asking congressional leaders to help out. "Failure to have a sensible and orderly process for thinning the herd will lead to animal health issues, environmental issues, and pork producers going out of business," they wrote in a Tuesday letter. (Read more pig farmers stories.)