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Undercover Video Documents Pig Cruelty in Iowa

Pigs and Piglets Abused at Iowa Select Farms, 2011

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Photo courtesy of Mercy for Animals

Pig at Iowa Select Farms

Mercy for Animals
Updated July 06, 2011

Between April and June of 2011, an undercover investigator from Mercy for Animals documented the abusive treatment of pigs and piglets at Iowa Select Farms in Kamrar, IA with undercover video. Iowa Select is the nation's fourth largest pork producer. Warning: The video is very graphic, including the cries of suffering pigs and images of dead and dying pigs. You can view the video here.

Abuses documented by the investigator included:

  • Mother sows confined to barren metal crates barely larger than their own bodies – unable to turn around or lie down comfortably for nearly their entire lives
  • Workers ripping out the testicles of conscious piglets without the use of painkillers
  • Piglets suffering with herniated intestines, due to botched castration
  • Conscious piglets having their tails painfully sliced into and yanked off with dull clippers
  • Large, open, pus-filled wounds and pressure sores
  • Sick and injured pigs left to languish and slowly die without proper veterinary care
  • Mother pigs – physically taxed from constant birthing – suffering from distended, inflamed, bleeding, and usually fatal uterine prolapses
  • Management training workers to throw piglets across the room – comparing it to a "roller coaster ride"

While the organization showed the video to animal welfare experts who all condemned the treatment of the pigs, MFA is not hopeful that anyone will be prosecuted for animal cruelty:

As this new investigation graphically illustrates, with not a single federal law providing protection to animals on factory farms, and Iowa state anti-cruelty law largely exempting farmed animals, legislators should be working to enact laws protecting animals, not abusers.

Animal cruelty such as that documented in the MFA video often goes unpunished because it is not illegal. Animal cruelty statutes frequently exempt common agricultural practices or exempt livestock completely.

MFA is asking retailers Kroger, Costco, Safeway, and Hy-Vee to dump Iowa Select and buy only from suppliers who are phasing out gestation stalls. The video asks viewers to "ditch pork," and the group's website points out that "consumers still hold the greatest power of all to prevent needless suffering of farmed animals by adopting a healthy and humane vegan diet." A vegan diet is one that is free of all animal products, including meat, fish, fowl, dairy, eggs, honey and gelatin.

Along with battery cages and veal crates, gestation stalls represent the most extreme confinement of factory farmed animals. Some farmers are voluntarily rejecting gestation stalls, and bans on gestation stalls have passed in several states. As of the spring of 2011, Florida, Arizona, Oregon, California and Ohio have banned gestation stalls, although some of those bans have not taken effect yet. Gestation stalls are also being phased out in the European Union and in New Zealand.

Although certain factory farming practices are considered unusually cruel, such as keeping sows in gestation stalls, throwing piglets, and castrating them without anesthesia; the animal rights position holds that no matter how well the pigs are treated, slaughtering and eating them violates their right to be free of human use and abuse. And while some believe in banning the cruelest practices and in "humane slaughter," to an animal rights activist, "humane slaughter" is an oxymoron. No matter how "humanely" the animal is slaughtered, he still loses his life.

This undercover investigation is the latest in a string of videos by Mercy for Animals that document the cruelty of factory farming. In 2010, the group exposed some of the abusive practices of a dairy in New York. Later that same year, they exposed a dairy farm in Ohio. Their 2011 video of the E6 Cattle Co. in Texas led to animal cruelty charges being filed against some of the employees, and their 2009 investigation of the Hy-Line Hatchery in Iowa showed the world what animal advocates have known for a long time - that baby male chicks are killed because they do not produce eggs when they grow up and are the wrong kind of chickens to be useful for meat production.

In 2008, their undercover investigation of a battery egg farm in California showed the cruelty behind modern egg production. The investigation coincided with California's vote on Proposition 2, which was passed by the voters and banned veal crates, gestation stalls and battery cages in CA.

The Iowa Select investigation concluded just as New York's "ag-gag" bill died, and just before the death of Iowa's ag-gag bill. Ag-gag bills attempt to criminalize the making of undercover videos at farms. Proponents of the bills cite concerns about trespassing and preserving corporate secrets, but animal, environmental, civil rights, labor and consumer advocates oppose the legislation because it would hide the truth, stifle free speech and make it difficult to expose corporate wrong-doing.

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