KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Treatment of hogs at an Oklahoma pig farm could be deemed abusive, and the workers there are in need of training in proper animal care and handling panel of animal welfare and handling experts assembled by The Center for Food Integrity. Panelists were Dr. Candace Croney, Purdue Univ.; Dr. Temple Grandin, Colorado State Univ. and Dr. John Deen, Univ. of Minnesota.
Mercy For Animals released the hidden-camera video that was allegedly shot undercover at West Coast Farms in Okfuskee County, Okla., a farm supplying hogs to Springdale, Ark.-based Tyson Foods Inc. for pork that is sold in Walmart stores nationwide. Tyson Foods ended its contract with West Coast Farms following the release of the video, which shows workers throwing a bowling ball at a pig's head, and kicking, throwing, hitting and body slamming pigs and piglets, among other abuses. NBC News used the video in its online report.
“There’s abuse and egregious misbehavior by employees in their handling of the animals in this video,” Deen said. “What is especially concerning is that it appears to be a culture rather than being able to attribute the behavior to individuals.
“But this video also shows common and acceptable production practices that are not pleasant to see but there are valid reasons for using them on the farm,” Deen added.
Panel members noted that while some procedures were unpleasant to watch, procedures such as tail docking, castration, and euthanasia, are necessary functions on a pig farm. In the video, workers are seen using blunt force trauma to euthanize pigs. The video infers the practice is not being carried out properly as pigs are shown afterward convulsing or moving their legs in a paddling motion.
“Those appeared to be unconscious convulsions, but the AVMA (American Veterinary Medical Association) recommends those using manually applied blunt force to the head as a euthanasia method to actively search for alternative approaches,” said Grandin. “And, I agree with them.”
The panelists found the employees in the video lacked the proper attitude and knowledge about best practices for hog farms.
“These workers are either completely lacking in knowledge about proper animal handling, in which case they shouldn’t be handling animals, or they are aware and simply choose not to follow appropriate training protocols and quality assurance standards relative to animal handling,” said Croney. “It’s also obvious that they are not properly supervised. If these behaviors are tolerated and workers feel like what they are doing is appropriate – that’s just wrong.”
Croney said unacceptable handling of animals is a common problem on display in undercover videos like the one taken at West Coast Farms, and the industry must take steps to address it.
“The swine industry has invested a lot in putting together programs and training to ensure things like this don’t happen,” she said. “We all need to demonstrate collective responsibility, think about why these problems continue to happen and come up with a way to prevent them from occurring.”