The undercover video taken at a Pennsylvania swine farm released this week by the animal rights and vegetarian-promoting organization Mercy for Animals is another reminder that work remains for the pork industry.

The workers’ actions displayed in the video are not indicative of the industry, yet the consuming public will not know that.

Standards for animal handling and pork production are clearly outlined by the industry-approved programs Pork Quality Assurance Plus and Pork Transport Quality Assurance. The video underscores the importance for everyone engaged in pork production to meet the challenge and become certified in these programs. That means training, monitoring and ensuring that all workers who come in contact with animals comply with them. 

Abuse of animals cannot be tolerated or overlooked on any farm. “U.S. pork producers are committed to care for animals in a way that protects their well-being,” says Sherrie Niekamp, National Pork Board director of swine welfare. “The National Pork Board and America’s pork producers take their ethical responsibility for the proper care of pigs seriously and will not tolerate any mistreatment of animals.”

As an example, Niekamp quotes from the TQA program page 9: “Piglets can either be moved by herding or by picking them up and moving them by hand or with a cart.  Piglets should be picked up by holding under the rib cage or by grabbing a rear leg, above the hock, and then gently setting the piglets into a cart, alley way or pen.  Piglets may squirm and wiggle when picked up so care should be used so that they are not dropped.  Piglets should not be tossed or thrown.  When being held for an extended period of time, piglets should be held under the rib cage next to the hander’s body or by both rear legs using two hands.”

An underlying and confusing factor is the animal rightist’s efforts to make pigs or other farm animals equal to house pets, as suggested by Daniel Hauff, MFA Director of Investigations. "It’s important we look at (pigs) the same way we look at dogs and cats because there is no difference. They feel the same pain, the same joy our beloved animals at home do,” Hauff contends.

But, a cow or a pig is not treated like a house pet because their needs are vastly different. ”There is a difference in how dogs, cats, pigs and any other species should be handled and cared for because each species has its own unique physical and psychological needs,” says Niekamp. “What is not different is that they should all be treated and cared for in a manner that protects and promotes their well-being appropriate for their species.”

Certainly the animal rightists will continue to challenge animal agriculture, but all pork producers must diligently implement the practices outlined in PQA Plus and TQA. Anything less is unacceptable.