The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has filed a legal complaint with the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) asserting that Tyson Foods is making deceptive public statements related to animal well-being. Tyson officials report that they have not seen nor been informed of any such filing.

HSUS filed the SEC complaint following the release of an undercover video it shot on a Wyoming Premium Farms sow site in Wheaton, Wyo. Cull sows from that farm have been sold to a nearby Heinold buying station, which is a subsidiary of Tyson.

The complaint charges that Tyson violated federal securities law with statements about its policies and practices relating to animal care. Specifically, HSUS points to the industry’s Pork Quality Assurance Plus program, which it says has no “mandated or enforceable animal welfare standards to conform to, making meaningful audits under the program impossible.”

HSUS previously filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) regarding the We Care and PQA Plus initiatives. Dallas Hockman, NPPC’s vice president of industry relations, told Pork Network. “We’ve received no formal information from FTC on a complaint being filed. The pork industry stands behind our We Care initiative and PQA Plus.”

He points to the fact that the PQA Plus program is not only committed to training, but also has a verification element involving on-farm assessments conducted by certified assessors. “We are doing the right thing and accusations against our industry are just not correct,” Hockman says.  

An Animal Care Review Panel, involving three animal well-being experts, cited issues with animal handling and mistreatment by workers at the WPF site, but did not point to problems associated specifically with the use of gestation-stalls.

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

Tyson, headquartered in Springdale, Ark., did release a statement regarding the SEC filing. “We’ve not seen any complaint filed with the SEC so it’s difficult to provide a specific comment. However, we will note that according to a new Humane Watch survey, HSUS appears to be deceiving its donors. The survey of more than 1,000 donors to HSUS, found that 90 percent were unaware that the organization gives just 1 percent of its budget to local pet shelters. After learning that the HSUS did not spend a majority of its funds assisting local pet shelters, 80 percent of the HSUS donors polled believed the group engaged in deceptive fundraising practices. For more information on the poll, use the link here.

“As we have previously stated, we are appalled by the mistreatment of the animals shown in the video taken at the Wyoming farm and have discontinued buying animals from the farm. While the video was offensive, the mistreatment shown had nothing to do with gestation crates.

“Let’s also make it clear that Tyson does not own, operate or have any contractual relationship with the Wyoming farm, which is primarily involved in providing feeder pigs to other companies not affiliated with Tyson Foods.”

Jonathan Lovvorn, HSUS senior vice president for animal protection litigation, says, “Tyson is trying to soothe concerned consumers by claiming to follow rigid animal welfare standards that simply do not exist. The pork industry’s self-created, anemic quality assurance program that Tyson referenced is an empty shell intended to conceal cruel gestation crate confinement and forestall meaningful animal welfare improvements.”