Smithfield releases findings of animal abuse investigation
by Joel Crews
SMITHFIELD, Va. – On Dec. 22, Smithfield Foods published findings of its independent investigation into the animal abuse allegations at its Murphy-Brown production facility in Waverly, Va., which were highlighted in video footage obtained as part of an undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States. A probe by a team of animal welfare experts, including Dr. Temple Grandin and Jennifer Woods, resulted in six findings and five recommendations relating to the company’s animal welfare practices.
The findings point out that indeed, three employees at the facility were identified and fired for isolated incidents that included: flipping a young pig, striking a sow with a gate rod and improper euthanizing of a sow. The investigation also concluded that employees received training in the proper handling of livestock and are expected to report animal abuse immediately, which was a policy that was not followed by the undercover investigator.
A letter posted on a recently launched company Web site (www.smithfieldfoodstoday.com
) from Dennis Treacy, senior vice president of corporate affairs and chief sustainability officer, outlines plans to: update employee training and procedures; increase supervisory site visits; adopt a program of third-party inspections and audits; and continue using the input of its animal welfare committee to monitor and improve practices at the company’s facilities. Treacy’s letter also dismisses allegations by the HSUS that Smithfield is not meeting its commitment to phasing out the use of gestation stalls at its operations.
“I was surprised to learn that HSUS’s operative actually worked on a conversion demolition crew at Waverly, witnessing firsthand exactly what the truth is: Our conversion to group housing is moving forward,” the letter states. He points out Smithfield was the first company to commit to converting its pregnant sow housing to group pens. “Our decision to switch to group housing demonstrates our responsiveness to our customers and other stakeholders, many of whom view group housing as the more animal-friendly solution.”
Treacy concludes, “I am pleased that this report demonstrates our transparency and commitment to animal welfare.”