HSUS releases latest undercover video shot at WY pig facility

May 11, 2012

In a news conference last week, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) released its latest undercover video, alleging “cruel treatment of animals and inhumane conditions” at a Wyoming Premium Farms pig facility.

The video was taken in April at the pig breeding facility in Wheatland, WY, one of four hog farms the company has in the state. Wyoming Premium Farms is owned by Itoham America Inc., a Japanese company with U.S. headquarters in Denver.

In the video, farm workers are shown kicking live piglets and swinging them by their hind legs. Hogs were also shown with abscesses and rectal and uterine prolapses. Dead piglets apparently stuck in floor slats were also shown.

The Center for Food Integrity has created an Animal Care Review Panel to provide a balanced analysis of undercover video investigations, such as this one. This process engages recognized animal care specialists to examine video and provide expert perspectives for food retailers, the pork industry and the media. The Panel is comprised of a veterinarian, an ethicist and an animal scientist: • Dr. Temple Grandin, Colorado State University • Dr. Candace Croney, Purdue University • Dr. John Deen, University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine Less than 24 hours after reviewing the video, the panel concurred that the actions in the video are “unacceptable and indefensible.”

“It’s unacceptable,” said Deen. “It’s not consistent with handling practices in training programs that have been created and with expectations by the farming community. The actions seen in this video are abusive to the pigs and unacceptable to society as a whole.”

The experts noted the video was comprised of brief excerpts and being allowed to view unedited footage might have allowed them to place the case in better context.

“But there is no context I can think of that would make the egregious handling seen in this video acceptable,” said Croney. “If what is captured in this video is an accurate portrayal of what’s going on at this farm, there are so many different people complicit in abusive handling that it strongly suggests there is a culture in this particular facility of absolute indifference to the animals. It totally contradicts all the hard work and efforts of those in the industry who are committed to providing quality animal care. That kind of attitude has to be corrected from the top down. They need to look very carefully at what’s happening on their farm—who they’re selecting to work there, what sort of education they’re offering their people, and make a concerted effort to correct all of the problems that were clearly evident in that video.”

“I’m not making excuses for this farm because we’ve got to do a better job,” said Deen. “But sometimes when these farms are in remote locations it’s difficult to have people who recognize pig farming as a complex and responsible activity. Hog farm workers need to understand right from wrong and when they see things that aren’t consistent with good animal care they need to let somebody know.”

Grandin noted that undercover video obtained from an Iowa hog farm that was reviewed by the panel in February did not show any animal mistreatment.

“That farm obviously has worked with their employees on the proper way to handle pigs,” said Grandin. “The owners of this [the Wyoming] facility need to get much better management.”

An HSUS official said they received an anonymous tip regarding the conditions at the 5,000 sow facility. Pacelle said they then sent an undercover investigator to the farm to gain employment and then video the facility during the month of April.

The local county sheriff, Steve Keigley, said HSUS filed a complaint with his office early this month. Keigley has asked Wyoming’s livestock board to take over as the lead investigative agency.

“Our plan at this time is that once the investigation is completed, submit the whole investigation to the county attorney and he will be the one to determine if they are going to press charges,” Keigley said.

9News reported the Denver-based Itoham America Inc. company filed an article of dissolution with the Colorado secretary of state’s office April 6. And the Chicago Tribune reported that, Itoham, which is Japan’s second largest pork processor, was fined 30 million yen in 2005 for evading millions of dollars in customs duties on pork imports to Japan.

Meanwhile, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) released a statement. “Undercover video from a Wyoming hog farm released [last week] by an animal rights group shows practices that are abhorrent to U.S. pork producers. NPPC condemns such actions, which are not in accord with the U.S. pork industry’s best practices that are exemplified in its Pork Quality Assurance Plus program,” they said.

“NPPC understands that the farm in question is taking immediate steps to address the situation, including an unannounced inspection of the facility by the farm’s consulting veterinarian. Individuals responsible for willful abuse of animals must be held accountable,” NPPC added. — Traci Eatherton, WLJ Editor