USDA, or the United States Department of Agriculture, is facing scathing criticism after a horrifying undercover video of a Hormel pork processing plant emerged online.
The video, which was captured by a volunteer of Compassionate Over Killing, a nonprofit animal rights group, shows sick pigs being dragged across the floor, beaten with paddles, and struck repeatedly to the point of immobility. According to Washington Post, the identity of the volunteer, who covertly filmed the video through a period of several months, has not been revealed since he is a still an employee at the Austin plant of Quality Pork Processors Inc, a supplier to meat-industry giants Hormel Foods Corporation.
The disturbing video is the latest in a string of undercover videos showing alleged animal abuse at meatpacking plants across the United States. Only last month, Tyson Foods Inc. said it fired two employees at its Mississippi poultry facility after animal-rights group Mercy for Animals released footage showing workers improperly slaughtering chickens, reports the Wall Street Journal.
A 97-minute unedited version of the video has been handed over to USDA by Compassionate Over Killing, while a four-minute edited version was uploaded yesterday on YouTube and has since gone on to be viewed nearly 100,000 times. Due to the graphic and extremely disturbing nature of the video, it has not been posted here, but in case you want to have a look at it, you can find it by clicking here.
According to the guidelines issued to meat-product manufacturers by USDA, pigs are supposed to be rendered unconscious before being killed, but in the video, several pigs are seen writhing in pain while their throats are slit, while some are even conscious of their approaching deaths while being sent down the line. Some are covered in pus-filled abscesses, while some others can be seen drenched in their own feces.
Quality Pork Products processes anywhere between 19,000 and 22,000 hogs each day, making it one of the most productive facilities in the country. But the video suggests that the sheer volume of processing means shocking mistreatment of pigs is highly probable.
“That one was definitely alive,” a worker can be heard in the edited version of the disturbing video.
“If the USDA is around, they could shut us down,” jokes another.
The USDA, who have now gained access to the full-length video, say that an investigation is underway. If found guilty, Hormel will have to face serious consequences, the organization warned.
“The actions depicted in the video under review are appalling and completely unacceptable, and if we can verify the video’s authenticity, we will aggressively investigate the case and take appropriate action,” said USDA spokesman Adam Tarr.
Hormel, on the other hand, has alleged that the video is another tactic by detractors to create a bad image for the company, which it says, follows all compulsory guidelines earmarked by USDA. Hormel, Minnesota’s mega-producer of porcine food goods, including bacon, pork chops, and SPAM, said it has repeatedly been the target of secret videotaping in its slaughterhouses, according to City Pages.
Though its representatives refused to comment on the inhumane conditions of the plant, Nate Jansen, vice president of human resources and quality services at QPP, said the company ensures there is no contamination in the processed meat and pointed out that the employee who captured the video might be in trouble.
“We were disappointed to see that it appears an employee may not have followed company policy.”
Some others alleged that the video could be fabricated.
Ted Genoways, a writer and scholar who has had access to the video, said there is no way the video could have been fabricated.
“I don’t think you can look at the video along with the USDA guidelines and say that QPP is following the law. This [Hormel] plant is the symbol of everything that is wrong with the meat industry.”
Ever since the video was uploaded online, it has drawn scathing criticism from various quarters, with many calling for USDA to act quickly and shut down the plant. One person expressed his disgust in the following manner.
“This is f****g outrageous. I can’t believe the insane abuse and cruelty that human beings inflict on these sensitive, intelligent creatures. The fact that anyone would even try to justify this atrocity shows a corrupt mind indeed. Our species needs to wake the f**k up and stop the horror that is taking place in these slaughterhouses.”
All said and done, Hormel and its pork processing plants could be in a world of trouble if USDA does take the allegations against its subsidiary plant seriously. And if it does not, it would be safe to say that USDA could brace itself for a severe backlash from America’s animal-loving people.
[Photo via Tryveg Screengrab / YouTube]