SMITHFIELD, Va. – Smithfield Foods Inc. has fired two employees and their supervisor for mistreating pigs at a Virginia farm. Last week, the Humane Society of the United States released alleged results from an undercover investigation showing breeding pigs abused and crammed into small gestation crates at the farm of livestock production subsidiary Murphy-Brown.

Smithfield conducted an internal investigation and announced on its Web site Dec. 21 that three workers were fired for violating the company's animal welfare policies. The results were first reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Dennis Treacy, Smithfield’s senior vice president and chief sustainability officer, said in an audio clip on the company’s Web site that “disturbing footage in a recent hidden video from HSUS” showed animal-handling practices that are not consistent with the company’s animal welfare policies.

“Three people involved in this behavior have been identified and fired, including a supervisor,” he said. “Their acts are an intolerable violation of our animal-welfare policies.........The fact these incidents occurred at all shows me that despite our policies, procedures and training on animal welfare, more can be done. As such, the company takes responsibility for the actions of these employees and for the improvement of our policies and procedures to prevent such incidents.

“We are working with world-renowned animal welfare expert Dr. Temple Grandin to assess the HSUS video along with our procedures,” he continued. “A full report will be provided when the investigation is complete.”

Treacy added that Smithfield is committed to phasing out gestation crates in favor of group housing in order to address customer concerns. “That process is ongoing and will continue,” he concluded.