Video uncovers Wyo hog farm abuse
Wheatland – An undercover video from Wheatland’s Wyoming Premium Farms, one of the few large-scale pork producers in the state, has gained national attention and has led Tyson Foods to suspend purchases of pork from the location.
The video, released by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) on May 8, shows abuses of piglets and sows and features gestation crates as inhumane.
Wyoming Livestock Board (WLSB) Director Leanne Stevenson said on May 8 that the WLSB had knowledge of the case the preceding week, when the Platte County Sherriff’s Office contacted them.
“Our office and law enforcement are working this as a criminal investigation case,” said Stevenson. “HSUS has been cooperative in providing information, but when they go public that changes the investigation, and our ability to follow through.”
Stevenson said animal abuse in Wyoming is a misdemeanor, and that the WLSB will work with the Platte County prosecutor if a citation needs to be issued.
“We are working with HSUS, and we’re taking this seriously as an investigation,” said Stevenson.
Panel reviews video
Meanwhile, the Animal Care Review Panel, composed of animal well-being experts, created to analyze undercover video investigations at livestock farms, calls animal mistreatment seen in a recently released case from a Wyoming hog farm “unacceptable and indefensible.” The Center for Food Integrity (CFI) created the panel of animal well-being experts to examine video and provide their expertise for food retailers, the pork industry and the media, as well as other sectors of animal agriculture as they show interest.
The panel that examined the recent video from Wyoming was comprised of Temple Grandin, Colorado State University; Candace Croney, Purdue University; and John Deen, University of Minnesota.
“There’s definitely abusive animal handling shown in that video,” said Grandin in the panel’s report.
Croney called the handling of the animals shown “scientifically and morally 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. “
Culture of ‘indifference’
The experts noted the video was comprised of brief excerpts and that being allowed to view unedited footage might possibly 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.”
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 facility need to get much better management.”
Christy Martinez is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.