Humane Society Claims Abuse At Smithfield Foods Farm

Humane Society Claims Abuse At Smithfield Foods Farm

Dec 16

……………

HUMANE SOCIETY CLAIMS ABUSE AT SMITHFIELD FOODS FARM
By Philip Walzer
The Virginian-Pilot
December 16, 2010

Original Link

The Humane Society of the United States on Wednesday released a video showing pregnant pigs cramped in stalls and workers prodding or tossing pigs at a farm owned by a Smithfield Foods Inc. subsidiary in Waverly.

“If we ever did this to dogs in any state in the country, we’d be arrested for cruelty to animals,” said Josh Balk, the Humane Society’s director of corporate outreach.

The video, Balk said, was taken by a Humane Society employee who spent a month, starting in November, working at the Murphy-Brown farm in the Sussex County town southeast of Petersburg.

The animal-rights group held a news conference at the Norfolk Waterside Marriott, where Balk played the video. Among the scenes:

– A worker shot what Balk described as a lame pig in the head and threw it into a trash bin, still alive. An employee also tossed young pigs into a cart to be transported to another area of the farm.

– Premature pigs that had fallen between the slats of a stall lay dead in a manure pit.

– The bars and floor of one stall were stained with blood from the mouth of a pregnant pig that was biting the bars. Another sow repeatedly rammed its head into a side of the stall. Others had cuts and sores, most the result of being confined in the stalls, Balk said.

Smithfield Foods issued a statement (see below) saying it had begun an investigation and had hired animal-welfare researcher Temple Grandin “to help us determine the facts of the events depicted in the video and recommend any policy and procedure adjustments that may be called for.”

Richard Wilkes, the state veterinarian with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, will assist the investigation, Smithfield said.

“We have zero tolerance for any behavior that does not conform to our established animal-well-being procedures,” said the statement from Dennis Treacy, the company’s chief sustainability officer.

Treacy also wrote that Smithfield “is in the process of converting a number” of farms from “gestation stalls” for pregnant sows to “group housing,” which is preferred by organizations such as the Humane Society and PETA.

Balk said the gestation stalls, at 2 by 7 feet, “are barely larger than the pigs themselves. They’re so narrow, the pigs can’t even turn around or move more than a few inches.” He said that sows can live in the stalls for as long as four years.

As late as Tuesday night, he said, Humane Society officials unsuccessfully lobbied Smithfield to set a deadline for the stalls’ elimination.

“Without a timeline, we think it is very close to meaningless,” Balk said. “We have no idea how long it will take.”

In 2007, the Smithfield-based company said it would phase out the stalls over 10 years, but it delayed the program last year because of the economy. At Smithfield’s annual meeting in September, C. Larry Pope, its president and CEO, said the stalls would be replaced as it updated its farms. He declined to commit to a timetable.

Balk said Smithfield should reinstate its 2017 deadline, especially since the company last week reported record quarterly profits of $144 million.

“There is no hard and fast timeline,” said Smithfield spokeswoman Amy Richards, “simply because we’ve learned things can happen with the economy. What we want to make clear is that the commitment has never wavered and is still there and will still be seen through.”

Stephanie Corrigan, manager of corporate affairs for PETA, which is based in Norfolk, said, “The reality of gestation crates is that pigs do go insane from boredom and loneliness; their bones and muscles atrophy. Smithfield clearly doesn’t value animal welfare. If they did, they would get rid of these crates once and for all.”

………….

………….

IN RESPONSE TO ANIMAL HANDLING CONCERNS
Smithfield Foods
December 15, 2010

Original Link

At Smithfield Foods our number one priority is food safety along with the care and safety-of our employees and our animals-at all of our facilities. We have a long history of leading the industry with innovative programs to demonstrate that leadership in order to provide our customers with a safe and abundant food supply.

Currently, the company’s well-defined animal welfare policy and procedures have been in action in the form of an ongoing investigation since last weekend, when we first learned of a possible animal abuse incident at one of our facilities through our employee animal welfare hotline. This was then followed by today’s HSUS release of a hidden video.

To further expedite the investigation of this incident we have engaged renowned animal welfare expert Dr. Temple Grandin to help us determine the facts of the events depicted in the video and recommend any policy and procedure adjustments that may be called for. Also assisting in the investigation and on-site at our farms today is Dr. Richard Wilkes, State Veterinarian and Director, Division of Animal and food Industry Services, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Should the investigation yield any wrongdoing on the part of any Smithfield Foods employee we will take appropriate action up to and including termination, pursuant to our animal welfare policy.

We provide regular training to our employees on our animal welfare policies and procedures, and we have zero tolerance for any behavior that does not conform to our established animal well-being procedures. We will publicly release the findings of the investigation as soon as it is concluded.

We are continuing our efforts to eliminate gestation stalls from our sow farms. Even during the worst of the recent recession for this country and especially the difficult financial situation the hog industry faced, we maintained that commitment by continuing the engineering and planning processes during that time. As noted in our shareholder’s meeting on September 1, 2010, we have restarted the capital investment and are actively in the process of converting a number of our company sow farms from individual gestation stalls to group housing arrangements for pregnant sows.

………….

RELATED LINKS:

• NHNE Factory Farming Resource Page
Pulse Factory Farm Videos & Reports
The Human Society of the United States
The Human Society of the United States on YouTube
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
PETA on YouTube

………….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *