Animal welfare panel responds to undercover video

by Meat&Poultry Staff
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LOS ANGELES – Mercy for Animals released another video depicting animal abuse, this time at Christensen Farms & Feedlots, Inc., which the organization said is a Wal-Mart pork supplier.

The video was recorded at a Christensen Farms facility in Hanska, Minn., and is narrated by former The Price is Right host, Bob Barker. It depicts pregnant sows in confinement crates, and piglets being handled improperly.

The Center for Food Integrity convened a panel of animal welfare experts to analyze the video. The panel found that most of what was shown does not indicate animal abuse or neglect, although some conditions and practices depicted in the video could be improved.

“Overall, these animals were well taken care of. There were no signs of animal cruelty, abuse or neglect," a panel member said. "The sows were clean, free of lesions, calm and in good condition.”

Based in Sleepy Eye, Minn., Christensen Farms is one of the largest pork producers in the US, according to the company. In response to the video, Christensen Farms released a statement via the company’s website.
"We are committed to taking proper care of our animals. Over the years we have continually challenged ourselves to improve our operational practices involving the humane and ethical treatment of animals. We have reviewed the video and have noted no exceptions to our company procedures or industry standards. If we do find employee misconduct or abuse we will take immediate action," the statement concluded.

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) said Mercy For Animals and the Humane Society of the United States repeatedly have grossly misrepresented the content of the videos, and have not been honest with consumers about how farmers raise and care for their animals.

"Such groups have used videos, including the one today, in an attempt to link alleged abuse to the use of gestation stalls for sows," NPPC said in a statement. "Such housing systems, which allow hog farmers to provide the best care to sows, have nothing to do with abuse."

The National Pork Board urged consumers to seek out more information on animal handling practices.

"Raising animals for food is not an easy job, but it's one we are passionate about. It is also complicated," said Conley Nelson, president of the NPB and a farmer and pig-production executive from Algona, Iowa. "Rather than basing judgments on a grainy, heavily edited video , we urge consumers to seek out more information. For example, many of the practices shown in this latest hidden camera video are described in great detail in two videos on our website, A Good End for Pigs and Castration and Tail Docking of Piglets."

"Animal care can be a personal and emotional issue for many consumers-particularly when presented through a video that is designed to stimulate a negative reaction," Nelson added. "The way that we raise pigs today, however, has evolved as we've worked to improve food safety, environmental protection, and animal care. These principles should continue to guide any decision made about the best way to care for our animals."

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