West Coast Farms in Henryetta, Oklahoma, lost its contract with Tyson Foods and Walmart after the disturbing video above was taken by an undercover worker from Mercy For Animals. The video was leaked by the animal rights group back in November of 2013, but what has been done to reduce animal abuse in the pork industry since then?
In the video you see workers punching, kicking and beating animals at West Coast Farms in Henryetta, Oklahoma. The video also shows sows confined to gestation crates, workers gouging pigs’ eyes and even an incident where an employee throws a bowling ball at an animal’s head. The video also shows works throwing baby piglets to the ground in an attempt to “euthanize” them. However, as seen in the video, not all the piglets die immediately and some are left to suffer, bleeding on the floor.
The startling video made its way to NBC News in November of last year which got the attention of Tyson Foods. After a public outcry, Tyson removed all ties with the farm and said they would no longer purchasing pork from West Coast Farms. That was not enough for animal rights advocates and consumers who wanted assurance that their pork was cruelty-free.
A damning statement made by the owner of West Coast Farms after the incident shows that the animal abuse depicted in the video was rather commonplace in the industry. The owner of the farm, Lonnie Herring, said that the video showed “mistreatment” of animals and said he had taken action of his own.
“I was stunned that anyone could be that callous in their treatment of any animal. After viewing the video, I immediately returned to my farm and terminated the employees seen in the video.”
However, Herring notes that his farm, even in the video, was using “approved” methods of euthanization for the piglets. He said that slamming the pigs, head-first, onto the concrete was an approved way to euthanize the animals; however, the workers should have stayed to ensure the animals were dead so that they would not suffer further.
At the beginning of the year, Tyson said that this video inspired them to implement changes. Smithfield Foods also said they were making the same updates to their policy in hope to curb future abuse of pigs on their farms. The companies sent letters asking their growers to move pregnant sows from gestation crates to group housing by 2022. The standard housing practice of pregnant pigs was gestation crates which could be seen in the video. These crates are metal cages that don’t allow any movement for their entire pregnancy.
The companies also said that they would attempt to end their customary practices of killing sick and downed animals by “manual blunt force.”
The question remains, is that enough? This means for the next 8 years, until the 2022 mark, sows will remain in gestation cages if the farm desires. Should the pork industry be doing more to ensure the humane treatment of the animals in its care? Though the pigs are raised for consumption, don’t they deserve to be handled without abuse?
What do you think should be done in the pork industry to curb abuse?