Chances are you’ve seen it, or at least heard about it. Yesterday, the Humane Society of the United States released a new undercover video from a pig farm in Wyoming.
I’ve watched it a few times, and it is hard to watch. I wanted to take a few minutes to comment, from a veterinarian’s perspective, about what I saw in that video. As a large animal veterinarian and a cattle farmer, I do have some experience with pigs and pig farms, but to be completely honest with you pigs are not my specialty. But I do know the basics of animal care and handling.
First and foremost, as a veterinarian and a farmer, I don’t condone animal abuse in any fashion. Not to pigs, cats, cows, chickens, or any other animal. As animal owners (of any kind of animals) we have a responsibility to our farm animals and pets to treat them with care and respect.
Unfortunately, that’s not what I saw in this video.
The video opens with the statement “Recommended as educational material on factory farming practices.” The “practices” shown in this video are not typical of what happens on large-scale pig farms, and I absolutely do not recommend this as “educational material.” This is an exposé, plain and simple. As farmers, it is our job to care for our animals. And we can’t do that unless we care about them. Happy animals are healthy animals, and that is our goal.
The workers in the video were shown hitting and kicking the pigs, which is not an appropriate way to get pigs to move. At one point, they showed a worker with a pig panel (a large, flat white plastic panel with handles on the top). These panels are used to help move pigs. They provide a smooth, flat barrier between the pig and the people, and can be used as a “movable wall” to get the pigs to go in the right direction to be moved between pens. People may tap or gently slap a pig to try to get their attention or to keep them moving, but this is different from the hitting that was shown in this video. (Have you ever slapped your friend on the arm to get their attention?)
The video shows a pig with a broken leg, and a worker “bouncing” her weight on the broken leg. Frankly, from the footage that was shown, I can’t tell if this pig has a broken leg. Regardless, she was not able to easily get up, and the worker should not have been treating her like that.
There were a few instances shown of workers throwing or tossing piglets around. Sometimes it was clear that the piglets were alive, sometimes it was hard to tell if they were alive or dead. It doesn’t really matter. Piglets, and any other animal, deserve to be treated with respect and handled with care. Piglets that have died also deserve to be treated with respect, and should be handled with this in mind.
The video also showed a pig with rectal and vaginal prolapses that had supposedly been kept alive for more than a week. Prolapses are common after giving birth. Based on the degree of prolapse, and the color of the tissue, this animal should have received medical attention. They don’t mention whether she did or not.
Sometimes pigs can be stubborn. And they often weigh more than the people who are working with them. So it’s easy to get frustrated. But that’s not an excuse for losing your temper with an animal.
I’m not here to condone or defend the actions of the people in this video, but I did want to give my perspective.
The Center for Food Integrity (a not-for-profit organization) has an Animal Care Review Panel. This panel will review the video footage, and any additional footage the HSUS consents to give them, and release a report on their findings. Their goal is to have the report available within 48 hours of the video release (within about 24 hours of this post). When it is available, I will share it here. The panel that will review this video includes an animal scientist (Dr. Temple Grandin of Colorado State University, a well-renowned animal behavior expert), an ethicist (Dr. Candace Croney of Purdue University), and a swine veterinarian (Dr. John Deen of the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine).