A disturbing video (below) recorded by an undercover animal rights activist shows graphic footage of pigs being beaten and dragged across the floor of one of the largest pork-producing companies in the U.S.
The video was taken inside Quality Pork Processors in Austin, Minnesota, The Huffington Post reported. It shows pigs shaking in pain and appearing to be conscious as they are being slaughtered. It also shows pigs with pus-filled sores headed for the production line.
“If the [U.S. Department of Agriculture] is around, they could shut us down,” an employee is heard saying in the video, which was captured by an undercover investigator for animal rights nonprofit Compassion Over Killing. That same employee was earlier seen slitting the throat of a pig that he admitted was “definitely alive.”
WARNING: Video contains disturbing images.
QPP supplies more than half of the “fresh pork raw material needs” for Hormel, the creator of Spam, and other processed meat products. It is one of five pork processors that participate in a federal pilot program called Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point-Based Inspection Models Project, which allows it to account for its own carcass inspections instead of it being overseen by government employees.
HIMP was meant to create a “flexible, more efficient, fully integrated” meat and poultry inspection system, and was launched by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service in the 1990s. It was also meant to allow USDA inspectors to focus more on food safety and other consumer protections, according to the Food Safety and Information Service.
Compassion Over Killing claims the program reduces government oversight and allows for high-speed slaughter. It claims QPP slaughters about 1,300 pigs per hour.
“That means this facility operates at faster line speeds than almost any other facility in the U.S.,” Compassion Over Killing said in a statement about the video. “The excessive slaughter line speed forces workers to take inhumane shortcuts that lead to extreme suffering for millions of pigs. It also jeopardizes food safety for consumers.”
The animal rights group gave several hours of raw video to the USDA and local authorities, and has met with federal investigators, Executive Director Erica Meier told The Huffington Post.
“The actions depicted in the video under review are completely unacceptable, and if we can verify the video’s authenticity, we will aggressively investigate the case and take appropriate action,” USDA spokesman Adam Tarr said.
Tarr added that federal inspectors were on duty at the plant, but had not seen the abuse.
“Had these actions been observed by the inspectors, they would have resulted in immediate regulatory action against the plant,” Tarr said.
QPP Vice President of Human Resources and Quality Services Nate Jensen told The Huffington Post that the company's own monitoring system had captured some of the actions and that it had already disciplined employees for violating company policy. He also refuted claims the company was overlooking food safety protocol.
“If you look at them as a full sequence, with the handling, you will see those animals were handled according to acceptable regulations and policies and our own internal procedures,” Jansen said. “I’ve got complete trust in the foods that we produce.”
But Meier said the nonprofit's video, which was uploaded to YouTube on Nov. 11, doesn’t lie.
“Our video speaks for itself,” Meier said. “We documented excessive beating, shocking, improper stunning and dragging of animals.”
According to the federal Humane Slaughter Act, livestock must be completely sedated and “rendered insensible to pain” before slaughter.
Meier said the undercover investigator who captured the footage only worked with live animals during the last three weeks of employment at QPP.