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Entries in Pigs (2)

Wednesday
Jun292011

Iowa Pig Farm Filmed, Accused of Animal Abuse

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(CHICAGO) -- The images are graphically clear: Small piglets being hurled to a concrete floor; large, fully grown sows gnawing the bars on their tiny cages; pigs with open sores lying untended on the ground; piglets squealing as their tails are cut off without benefit of anesthetic; and workers tossing live piglets back and forth and describing them as "bouncy."

All were among the images on undercover video just released by the animal rights nonprofit Mercy for Animals, capturing production at Iowa Select Farms, the state's largest pig farm, and prompting some retailers to suspend purchases of pork from the company.

Gaining access as employees, "our investigators go in as eyes and ears for the public," said Nathan Runkle, executive director of Chicago-based Mercy for Animals. "They give their real names and real Social Security numbers and they shoot the video with a small undercover camera. Part of our message is there is not a single federal law that provides protection to factory animals. What we need are stricter, stronger laws."

Runkle said the video was shot between April and June and that the facility was selected at random. "We did not have insider information about abuse...but we found these kind of ugly practices rampant at this facility," he said of the allegations.

Runkle conceded that some of what he describes as abuse is "standard industry practice" in the pork industry. For instance, gestation crates are widespread within the pig farming industry. Sows spend most of their lives in a tiny space where they can't lie down or turn around, producing litter after litter of piglets until they die.

Seven states have already banned gestation crates, but Iowa Select Farms continues to use them. "If anyone subjected dogs or cats to this kind of treatment, they would be arrested," Runkle said.

Iowa Select Farms is the fourth-largest pork producer in the nation. It supplies pork to JBS Swift (Swift Pork Co.), which, in turn, sells products to some of the biggest retailers in the nation such as Costco, Safeway and Kroger.

Safeway issued a statement Tuesday calling the images "disturbing" and said it had immediately halted purchases from JBS Swift while a thorough investigation is conducted into the operation of Swift's supplier, Iowa Select Farms.

Likewise, Kroger said it was "concerned" and had asked JBS Swift to "suspend supplying product to Kroger from the facility that is shown in the video."

Craig Wilson, a vice president at Costco Wholesale, called the images "terrible" but said the company had no plans to suspend shipments of pork from Swift, preferring instead to "give them [Iowa Select Farms] an opportunity to knock it off and make things right."

For its part, Iowa Select Farms posted a statement from the company veterinarian, Dr. Howard Hill, on its website. "Iowa Select has a long-standing commitment to animal welfare....We have already initiated an investigation into the portions of the video that show unacceptable animal handling by a few employees."

This is not the first hidden camera investigation launched by Mercy for Animals and it won't be the last, Runkle said.

"Most of this abuse takes place in secret and the animals are left to pay the hidden price," he said of the allegations. "As a civilized society, it is our moral obligation to do something about it. Profit should not be an excuse for animal cruelty."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jun072011

Wild Pigs Target of Federal Government Plan for Eradication

Feral pigs run amok in San Diego (Courtesy of Department of Fish and Game)(SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif.) -- It looks as if San Diego County is far from becoming hog heaven for the feral pigs in the area that are facing potential eradication.

With no natural predators and voracious breeding habits, hunters in California cannot keep up with the expanding population of these wild pigs that weigh between 250 and 350 pounds.

Many landowners view these pigs as a destructive nuisance. "They tear up property, tear up landscape and tear up habitats," said Andrew Hughan, the public information officer at the California Department of Fish and Game.

Now the federal government is considering stepping in.

The U.S. Forest Service is proposing a plan for eradicating these creatures. The plan would use professional hunters, traps and even helicopter shooters to control the spread of these pigs.

The issue is that these pigs are as sneaky as they are abundant. While some estimate the pigs' numbers to be in the hundreds, others estimate them in the thousands. The stealthy pigs have a tendency to come out at night and change their habits once they know they are being hunted.

No one knows for sure where these hogs came from. Some say the animals migrated from other states, or perhaps even Mexico. Others have speculated that the pigs could be the result of a failed attempt to create a game-hunting venture on the property of one of the native Indian tribes.

There is no bag limit on how many hogs hunters can kill, but Hughan said it is "realistically impossible" to eradicate this "literally unchecked species." The pigs have been wreaking havoc in many different ways, said Brian Harris, the public affairs officer for the Cleveland National Forest in Southern California.

"They have a destructive effect on the vegetation of the area, and they are damaging the oak and grassland habitats by rooting around," said Harris. The hogs also like to eat the acorns that are supposed to be seeds for new trees, and the eggs of the forest's many ground nesting birds.

Harris said that the plan is still in its "scoping phase" and will go through a full environmental assessment, with opportunities for public comment before any decisions are made.

Even though Harris said the ultimate goal is to manage the population, not eliminate it, representatives from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have already spoken out against the plan.

Martin Mersereau, PETA's director of cruelty investigations, told the Los Angeles Times that "The feral pigs are there through no fault of their own. They're just trying to feed their families."

The presence of these pigs has been confirmed in 56 of California's 58 counties, and Hughan believes they are likely present in the remaining two counties and just have not been spotted.

These feral pigs populate the country far beyond California. The hogs are all over the country, including in Washington, Oregon, Texas, Georgia and Michigan. Attempts at eradication have also been made in Louisiana, Oklahoma and Hawaii. The battle against them has even spawned a reality series, Discovery's Hog Wars.

From now until June 26, San Diego's porcine plan is open for public comment before further steps are taken.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio