Mercy for Animals’ latest undercover video targeting a Seaboard Foods’ hog farm in Colorado led to accusations of animal abuse, but further investigations by Seaboard Foods, a panel of industry experts and local officials tell a different story.
Seaboard Foods the last to know, first to respond
Though the video targeted a Seaboard hog farm in northeastern Colorado, the company was among the last to know of the alleged incidents of abuse. In a statement available here, Seaboard Foods explained it first became aware of the allegations after the video was released to authorities (and media) last week.
“When made aware of these claims, Seaboard Foods senior level management immediately initiated an internal investigation, and based on our findings and zero-tolerance policy for improper animal handling, five employees, as well as two management supervisors, have been terminated,” the company explained in a news released here.
As of last week, a full, unedited version of the undercover footage had not yet been made available to Seaboard Foods officials.
Seaboard Foods also quickly called out Mercy for Animals for purporting its concerns about animal welfare despite never reporting abuse concerns directly through the company’s toll-free hotline “as is required by any employee.”
No charges filed
The Phillips County, Colo., District Attorney had more bad news for Mercy for Animals. Following an investigation, no charges will be filed against Seaboard Foods or the employees seen in the video. According to FOX31 Denver in a report here, the district attorney said it found no “no credible evidence that the animals housed at Seaboard were or are being abused to the point warranting the filing of charges.”
A local veterinarian visited the farm as part of the district attorney’s investigation and concluded the pigs did not appear agitated and there were signs of contusions, abrasions or other abuse indicators.
Local 9 News added the district attorney said it believes by Seaboard Foods firing the employees featured in the video, the farm used an appropriate course of action.
Expert panel looks at alleged abuse and finds none
The Center for Food Integrity’s Animal Care Review Panel also examined the undercover video. This panel is comprised of Dr. Temple Grandin, Colorado State University; Dr. Janeen Salak-Johnson, University of Illinois; and Dr. Tom Burkgren, executive director of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians.
These industry experts concluded on several accusations made by Mercy for Animals, including:
- Animal handling: In the video, farm employees were seen using sort boards and shakers to move hogs from a barn; a number of scenes included these tools being used to hit the animals. As Grandin explained, “I would call that ‘rough handling’ of the pigs. The sorting panels should not be used to hit the animals. I would not call it abuse but it was rough handling.”
- Euthanasia: Another segment of the video featured an employee properly using a captive bolt gun to humanely euthanize a hog. Salak-Johnson pointed that “this form of euthanasia is accepted by the American Veterinary Medical Association. The pig went down quickly with one shot, which is what you want to happen. From a worker safety perspective, I was surprised it was done in the pen with other pigs around.”
- Crowded conditions: The video narration describes the pigs as “crowded in metal concrete pens” and were “pushing and climbing over other animals.” Burkgren drew on his own experience: “It’s not uncommon to hold pigs temporarily in a pen like this before loading them into the truck. From my experience, I would say those pigs were not necessarily living in those pens but were being held there temporarily during the process of moving them from the barn and into a truck. It’s difficult to judge given the lack of context in the video.”