The verdict is in from the Animal Care Review Panel regarding the actions shown on the undercover video released on Tuesday, which was shot at a Wyoming Premium Farms’ (WPF) sow unit near Wheaton, Wyo. The panel of three animal well-being experts, called the animal mistreatment “unacceptable and indefensible.”

The video under review was shot by an activist working undercover for The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), who gained employment at WPF for 27 days in April.

WPF is part of Itoham Foods, which is headquartered in Japan. A subsidiary, Itoham America, had offices in Denver until a month ago. A Denver television news station, 9News, reported that the company filed an article of dissolution with the Colorado secretary of state's office April 6. It appears that the WPF website has been taken down.

On Wednesday, the Platte County, Wyo. Sheriff's Office, reports that it has asked the state's livestock board to investigate WPF’s Wheatland production site. Platte County Sheriff Steve Keigley told the Denver Post , "our plan at this time is that once the investigation is completed, submit the whole investigation to the county attorney and he will be the one to determine if they are going to press charges."

The experts on the Animal Care Review Panel that examined the video, included Dr. Temple Grandin, animal scientist and animal welfare specialist, Colorado State University; Dr. Candace Croney, ethicist, Purdue University; and Dr. John Deen, DVM, University of Minnesota.

The panel is organized by the Center for Food Integrity (CFI) to review and respond to such undercover video investigations involving livestock farms. The objective is to provide an expert analysis of what the images and actions actually show for food retailers, the pork industry, agriculture and the media.

CFI released the panel’s response to the video as follows:

“There’s definitely abusive animal handling shown in that video,” said Grandin. “Kicking and throwing piglets? This farm definitely has management issues. A well-run operation would not be doing these kinds of things.”

“This video was an incredibly disturbing, saddening and horrific example of the worst kind of animal handling,” said Croney. “What I saw is the antithesis of every professional standard for animal care and handling published in any industry guideline or any certification program. I cannot imagine that anyone in the swine industry who considers themselves a responsible actor could support what is seen in that video. The handling of the animals shown is scientifically and morally indefensible.”

“It’s unacceptable,” said Deen. “It’s not consistent with handling practices in training programs that have been created and with expectations by the farming community. The actions seen in this video are abusive to the pigs and unacceptable to society as a whole. “

The individuals cited specific areas of concerns. Croney pointed to instances of animals being kicked, and piglets being picked up by one ear and tossed significant distances as examples of unacceptable animal care. Deen cited a scene showing a sow unable to get to a water source as an example of the need for timely and humane euthanasia. Grandin noted veterinary care should have been provided a sow seen with a necrotic prolapse.

The experts did note that the video was comprised of brief excerpts and that had they been allowed to view unedited footage might have allowed them to place the case in better context.

Still, Croney emphasized, “there is no context I can think of that would make the egregious handling seen in this video acceptable. If what is captured in this video is an accurate portrayal of what’s going on at this farm, there are so many different people complicit in abusive handling that it strongly suggests there is a culture in this particular facility of absolute indifference to the animals. It totally contradicts all the hard work and efforts of those in the industry who are committed to providing quality animal care. That kind of attitude has to be corrected from the top down. They need to look very carefully at what’s happening on their farm – who they’re selecting to work there, what sort of education they’re offering their people, and make a concerted effort to correct all of the problems that were clearly evident in that video.”

“I’m not making excuses for this farm because we’ve got to do a better job,” said Deen. “But sometimes when these farms are in remote locations it’s difficult to have people who recognize pig farming as a complex and responsible activity. Hog farm workers need to understand right from wrong and when they see things that aren’t consistent with good animal care they need to let somebody know.”

In contrast to the panel’s other such video reviews, Grandin noted that an undercover video obtained from an Iowa hog farm that the panel reviewed in February did not show any animal mistreatment.

“That farm obviously has worked with their employees on the proper way to handle pigs,” said Grandin. “The owners of this facility need to get much better management.”

The Animal Care Review Panel operates as an independent entity. CFI points out that it’s only role is to facilitate the review process and release the panel’s findings. For the review process, CFI says it attempts to receive complete and in-context video footage from the organization that obtained it, “which provides the best opportunity for the panel to have a full understanding of the situation. Short of that, the panel will review edited segments that have been released to the public,” CFI says. “The opinions expressed in the review are solely those of the panel.”

Here’s a more detailed perspective on the experts reviewing the WPF/HSUS video:

 

  • Dr. Temple Grandin, Colorado State University, is perhaps the most noted expert in animal behavior and animal welfare. She is a bestselling author and consultant to the livestock industry. Dr. Grandin is a professor of animal science at Colorado State University and also designs livestock handling facilities. She has authored over 300 articles in both scientific journals and livestock periodicals on animal handling, welfare, and facility design.
  • Dr. Candace Croney, Purdue University, is a renowned expert in applied animal behavior, with an emphasis on animal learning, welfare and ethics. She is an associate professor of animal sciences at Purdue University. She has contributed to nationwide animal welfare efforts working with organizations such as the American Zoo and Aquarium Association and many others. She is on the Scientific Advisory Committee of the American Humane Certified program, and her research on farm animal cognition has been featured in national and international broadcast programs.
  • Dr. John Deen, University of Minnesota, is a professor in veterinary epidemiology at the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Minnesota. His work in research, teaching and Extension has been in welfare, epidemiology and economics, focusing on measurement and optimization across competing needs in pig farming. He provides training to farmers, veterinarians, and veterinary students. Dr. Deen is also project lead with USAID in reducing the threats of spread of disease from animals to humans, particularly in central Africa and Southeast Asia. He earned his DVM and PhD from the University of Guelph and gained board certification in swine health management from the American College of Veterinary Practitioners in 1994.