Panel questions attitude of Pipestone workers
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A panel of farm animal-care experts expressed concern about the attitudes of workers shown in an undercover video released by animal rights group Mercy For Animals. The Center for Food Integrity (CFI) created the panel of animal care specialists to examine undercover video and provide expert perspectives for food retailers, the pork industry and the media.
Mercy For Animals released the video, which was taken at Rosewood Farms, a pig operation that is part of Pipestone Systems, a cooperative of family farms. The group claims the video depicts workers committing acts of animal cruelty. The panelists said procedures depicted in the video fall within American Veterinary Medical Association allowances, but the behavior and attitudes of the workers was reflective of industry standards.
“Employees seen in the video show high levels of frustration, impatience and attitudes reflecting either improper training in low-stress animal handling or a lack of reinforcing the expectation for the best practice of low-stress handling,” said Dr. Janice Swanson, Michigan State Univ.
Employees are seen euthanizing piglets using blunt force trauma, which involves slamming an animal’s head against a concrete floor. The panelists said watching the procedure is uncomfortable because of the visual impact.
“While I agree that blunt force trauma is brutal to watch, despite being effective if done correctly, what is even more problematic than how it looks is the capacity for suffering by the animals if done improperly and the psychological risks to employees of being required to use this method,” said Dr. Candace Croney, Purdue Univ. “It is paradoxical to ask employees to provide compassionate care and also to kill, especially in such a fashion. Worse, when employees show the types of abusive attitudes evident in this video, the concern that is raised is whether doing this type of procedure worsens indifference to animals. This issue deserves more attention.”
Overall, the panelists found that employees at the farm were mishandling the pigs. For example, the video shows an employee hitting an animal over the back with a sorting board or panel, which is used to help move animals through alleyways.
“That should never happen,” said Croney. “You can break the animal’s back. That’s egregious abuse, in my opinion.”
Dr. John Deen, Univ. of Minnesota, said there was unacceptable handling of animals seen in the video.
“It appears to me this farm is struggling with creating an environment that allows workers to discipline each other and to create an expectation of better animal handling,” he said.
“There seems to be a major lack of recognition that these are sentient animals that can suffer,” Croney added. “It’s not enough to train caretakers to just be animal technicians. They must have a level of compassion and understanding that what they do to animals matters to them and it should matter to us.”