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Undercover Probe of KY Hog Farm Alleges Inhumane Animal Treatment

PHOTO: A hog farm in Owensboro was the site of an undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States alleging mistreatment of animals. Photo courtesy HSUS.
PHOTO: A hog farm in Owensboro was the site of an undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States alleging mistreatment of animals. Photo courtesy HSUS.
February 21, 2014

FRANKFORT, Ky. – The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) claims its undercover investigation of a factory farm in Kentucky shows how the pork industry is still in the dark ages.

Paul Shapiro, the society’s vice president of farm animal protection, says the recent investigation at Iron Maiden Hog Farm in Owensboro found sows confined in cramped cages known as gestation crates.

"They're unable to turn around, essentially, for years on end,” he relates. “This state of immobilization causes the animals to, essentially, go insane."

The organization is pushing for the state's Livestock Care Standards Commission to outlaw the practice.

More than 60 major food companies have told their pork providers not to use gestation crates, and some large producers – including Cargill, Smithfield and Tyson – say they're moving away from their use.

The Humane Society investigation also found that caged sows were being fed ground-up intestines from piglets that had died from a highly contagious diarrheal disease (Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus).

Shapiro says more than 900 piglets died over a two-day period at the Iron Maiden Hog Farm.

"The pork industry is turning pigs into cannibals,” he maintains. “We saw what happens when cows were fed back to cows."

Shapiro says the practice is prohibited by Kentucky law and may violate a federal law, the Swine Health Protection Act.

But, the Kentucky Livestock Coalition says the farm "appears to be using a widely accepted and veterinary-recommended management practice" to inoculate hogs from the virus, which involves using "intestines or stool from affected swine" to save others.

Michael Blackwell, the HSUS senior director of veterinary policy, points out the virus is plaguing pork production facilities nationwide.

"What we're talking about is your food supply,” he stresses. “This recent outbreak is clear evidence that we need to still question an industry that says that they have everything under control."

Blackwell says the hope is that the investigation leads to changes in what he calls routine practices at many hog farms.

Attempts to reach Iron Maiden officials for comment proved unsuccessful.

Greg Stotelmyer , Public News Service - KY