Undercover Factory Farm Investigations Have Impact

For anyone who thinks that taking hidden cameras into factory farms is all about fund-raising and publicity, instead of stopping cruelty, tell that to the nine workers at Wyoming Premium Farms who were fired, and the five who were just convicted of multiple accounts of animal cruelty.

Via Mercy For Animals, here’s the Wyoming Business Report:

April 11, 2013 —

WHEATLAND – Five employees from Wyoming Premium Farms have each been convicted on multiple counts of cruelty to animals after a Humane Society of the United States undercover investigation documented acts of animal abuse. The five convicted workers are: Patrick Ruckavina, Richard Pritekel, Edward Pritekel, Kali Oseland and David Bienz.

A total of nine employees were charged in late December. All were terminated from their jobs at the farm by the time charges were filed.
In addition to the five convictions, according to a deputy clerk at Platte County Circuit Court, three cases – against Kyla Adams, Jarrod Juarez and Steve Perry – are still pending.  Shawn Colson, the former assistant manager of the farm who faced seven counts of animal cruelty, is currently considering a deal offered by the court.

The abuse, which was captured on video and became a sensation on YouTube last May, led to food giant Tyson Foods severing its relationship with the farm.

The investigation documented Wyoming Premium workers kicking live piglets like soccer balls, swinging sick piglets in circles by their hind legs, striking mother pigs with their fists and repeatedly and forcefully kicking them as they resisted leaving their young, among other abuses.

Mercy For Animals notes Wyoming’s unfortunately typical response to the sort of abuse depicted:
Confining pigs in gestation crates so small they can’t even turn around is so patently cruel the practice has been banned in nine US states, and nearly 50 major food providers, including McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Costco, Safeway, Kroger, Oscar Mayer, Jimmy Dean, and Bon Appetit, have committed to ending the use of these cruel crates in their pork supply chains.

Yet, rather than improve conditions for pigs and other farmed animals, pro-factory farm legislators in Wyoming and some other states are trying to outlaw investigations that uncover cruelty to animals and other criminal activities at factory farms and slaughterhouses. These legislators don’t want to stop animal abuse; they just want to stop consumers from finding out about it.

In January, the Wyoming House of Representatives introduced House Bill 126. If passed, this bill would make it a crime to “knowingly or intentionally” record images at a factory farm without the owner’s consent, effectively outlawing the type of undercover work that led to the criminal convictions of these five workers at Wyoming Premium Farms.

Here’s the Humane Society video that led to the convictions and to Tyson’s abandonment of Wyoming Premium Farms. Yes, it is very hard to watch, but that is the point. I’d say we need more videos like it, not criminalization of the folks who have the guts to show the world what is happening behind the walls.

Meatless

The Humane Society makes the (video) case for Meatless Monday.

Actually, they make the case for meatless Monday-Sunday–otherwise known as vegetarianism. Lots of people feel helpless when it comes to the scale of environmental destruction humans are inflicting on the planet. I always tell them the simplest, most powerful, thing they can do right away is stop eating meat. Not only is industrial beef (and chicken, and pork) farming killing the planet, it’s killing you.

Quitting meat cold-turkey (sorry) isn’t that easy, if only because meat is so ingrained in our food culture. So it’s hard to think of what else to eat, and we crave fat. But it’s easy in this sense: you will feel a lot better, and you will lose weight. AND you will be doing something meaningful for the planet. AND for our health care costs.

But while I think it’s okay, if you want to, to eat some meat on occasion, and that any cutbacks you can make are a good thing, I think asking Americans to go without meat just one day a week is a pretty lame target. Yes, I am sure that a single meat-free day a week is all the Humane Society figures they can ask meat-addled Americans to aspire to. But as noted earlier, these times call for radical, not incremental, solutions. And Meatless Monday just isn’t very radical. So let’s aim for Meatless, full stop, instead.

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