“When he bolted her the first time, she didn’t die. She just stood there looking stunned as blood trickled from her forehead. She then got her bearings and tried to turn and run.”
“The gas cart was filled to the brim with pigs today, a total of 39, including 9 large pigs that were at weaning age. They were left in the cart all day to trample each other, before being gassed all at once.”
Read the diary and watch the video of undercover investigator Mike who worked at the Country View/Hatfield Quality Meats hog farm last spring and you’re sure laws are being broken and the operation will be shut down. Wrong. There is nothing illegal in one of the most gruesome videos to circulate the Web says Mercy For Animals (MFA) who conducted the investigation, because there are no farm welfare laws to break.
As the anti-factory farming movement gains momentum, many have heard about gestation crates, enclosures so small sows can’t turn around, that are banned in the European Union and some states. They have heard of tail docking and castration without anesthesia–also banned in some European countries–manure lagoons, dead piles and animals that go cage crazy from their confinement.
But who knew the euthanasia of unwanted piglets and their mothers was so primitive?
Video shows whimpering, seven pound piglets still breathing and blinking at the bottom of the death cart after being gassed with carbon dioxide hours earlier. “32 starve-outs, 16 runts, 10 ruptures, 9 poor quality, 3 deformed and 2 joint infections” were killed in five days writes Mike, who was hired to work as a barn technician last May.
Who knew shooting an animal with a captive bolt pistol– designed to catastrophically damage the cerebrum, part of the cerebellum, upon penetrating the cranium–might work and then again might not? “My supervisor told me she was dubbing my coworker ‘Two-Shot’ in light of the fact he rarely kills the sow with one bolt,” says Mike.
Working in a hot, fly and manure infested hog barn amid screams of 2,784 sows, 483 sows with litters, 864 gilts, 5,400 nursery pigs and 15 boars could make anyone snap. But some of the workers sound snapped before working at Country View.
One told Mike he prays to run over animals on the highway and was looking forward to bolting a prolapsed sow because “I just feel like killing something.” Another worker swung a ruptured pig into the gas cart telling it with glee to “die, %#@&,” employing a racial epithet.
Veterinarians viewing the Country View video cite disturbing violations of their profession’s oath.
“There are dead piglets in the farrowing crates, and one moribund piglet is captured on video in her last minutes of life,” says Illinois veterinarian Debra Teachout. “She is in trembling and in lateral recumbency, respirations are shallow and gasping, eye is swollen and shut. There is a large lesion on her face, and suggests that she is dying of sepsis. This piglet should never have been allowed to get to this point without medical intervention.”
“The pig seizuring in the stall unattended is nightmarish, as is the sloppy use of the captive bolt,” says Bernard Rollin, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University and Pew Commission member. “The gas ‘euthanasia’ using CO2 is widespread in the industry. It is horrendous, as the animals suffocate and experience major fear and distress.”
Nor is it possible to overlook the animals’ intelligence, says Mike who found a sow had liberated herself and her litter from her crate by loosening steel pegs in two different places. “I told a co-worker this story and she said that when a sow figures out how to unlock her crate, she often goes around unlocking all of the other crates as well,” wrote Mike.
Pigs also can jump hoops, bow, stand, spin, “speak” on command, roll out a rug, herd sheep, play videogames and use mirrors to find food, reports New York Times science columnist Natalie Angier. They “like being touched and petted,” says Mike.
Like the poultry and egg farms it has investigated, the choice of Country View/Hatfield Quality Meats at 12722 Creek Road in Fannettsburg, PA was random–and the practices recorded, universal across the industry, says Chicago-based Mercy For Animals. Hatfield is one of the nation’s top pork providers and supplies Wal-Mart, IGA Shaw’s, Stop & Shop, Sam’s, Club, Costco, Giant and other well known food chains.
“We are calling on the nation’s largest grocery chains to take a stand against egregious cruelty to animals,” says MFA executive director Nathan Runkle. “These companies have the power and the responsibility to ensure that the products sold on their shelves come from producers who have abandoned the abusive practices uncovered in our investigation.”
MARTHA ROSENBERG can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org