Undercover video alleges hog abuse by Tyson supplier

by Meat&Poultry Staff
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LITTLE ROCK, Ariz. – Tyson Foods Inc. ended its contract with an Oklahoma pig farm following the release of an undercover video depicting alleged abuses of pigs and piglets by workers.

Mercy For Animals released hidden-camera video of animal abuse that was allegedly shot undercover at West Coast Farms in Okfuskee County, Okla., a farm supplying hogs to Tyson Foods for pork that is sold in Walmart stores nationwide. The video shows workers throwing a bowling ball at a pig's head, and kicking, throwing, hitting, body slamming, and otherwise torturing pregnant pigs and piglets, the organization charges.

The undercover video reveals:

• Workers viciously punching, kicking, beating, and violently shaking animals and pulling out their hair
• Piglets having their tails hacked off and their testicles ripped out of their bodies without painkillers
• Workers slamming conscious piglets headfirst against the ground and spiking them like footballs
• Pregnant pigs confined to tiny, maggot-infested gestation crates
• Workers shoving their fingers into pigs' eyes and hitting them with wooden boards
• Piglets left to suffer and slowly die on dead piles without proper veterinary care
• A worker throwing a heavy bowling ball at a pig's head

“We’re extremely disappointed by the mistreatment shown in the video and will not tolerate this kind of animal mishandling,” said Gary Mickelson, Tyson Foods spokesman. “We are immediately terminating our contract with this farmer and will take possession of the animals remaining on the farm. We’re serious about proper animal handling and expect the farmers who supply us to treat animals with care and to be trained and certified in responsible animal care practices. It’s consistent with our core values to ‘serve as stewards of the animals…entrusted to us.’”

Criminal charges against the workers involved in this animal abuse at this farm are being called for by this organization. The group is also asking Walmart to immediately adopt new animal-welfare guidelines, including prohibiting its pork suppliers from confining pigs in gestation crates.

The National Pork Producers Council called on Oklahoma authorities to investigate the allegations and bring criminal charges against workers who abused animals. But NPPC also expressed concern that the video was withheld for a month before its release to the public. In a statement, the organization noted: "...it also appears that the video was not provided to Oklahoma law enforcement authorities although it was given to an NBC News reporter earlier this week.

"Providing humane and compassionate care for their pigs at every stage of life is one of the ethical principles to which US pork producers adhere," NPPC added. "US pork producers are committed to caring for animals in a way that protects their well-being. Just as it is to others, abuse of animals is appalling to pork producers. Farmers do not defend and will not accept abuse of animals."

The Kansas City, Mo.-based Center For Food Integrity has assembled a review panel of animal care and welfare experts that will evaluate the unedited version of the video. Panelists include:

• Dr. Temple Grandin, professor of Animal Science, Colorado State Univ. and Meat&Poultry columnist;
• Dr. Candace Croney, associate professor of Animal Sciences, Purdue Univ.; and
• Dr. John Deen, professor, College of Veterinary Medicine, Univ. of Minnesota.
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