MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The Minnesota-based food giant Hormel says it’s suspended buying pigs from a large supplier following the release of an undercover video showing alleged animal abuse on an Oklahoma hog farm.
The advocacy group Mercy for Animals released Tuesday footage allegedly recorded inside a farm owned The Maschhoffs, one of the nation’s largest pork producers. The video shows workers hitting piglets with gas cans, cutting off piglets’ testicles and tails without painkillers, and keeping sows in uncomfortable gestation crates.
“Confining highly intelligent and social pigs in cages so small the animals can’t even turn around for nearly their entire lives is blatant cruelty,” said Nathan Runkle, the president of Mercy for Animals, in a press release. “No animal should suffer a lifetime of physical violence and abuse.”
Mercy for Animals is calling for Hormel to adopt greater animal welfare requirements for its suppliers, specifically in regards to castration, tail docking, and the use of gestation crates. According to the group, several states have banned gestation crates — Minnesota is not among them — and several food companies, such as McDonalds and Chipotle, have demanded that their suppliers stop using them. As for tail docking, it is an industry practice to prevent tail biting.
In response to the Mercy for Animals video, Hormel said in a statement that it’s sent a certified third-party auditor to The Maschhoffs farms in Oklahoma to verify the company’s animal care requirements are being followed. The supplier has agreed to cooperate in the investigation, the Austin, Minnesota-based company says.
“Animal stewardship, including the care and humane treatment of animals, is one of our most important values,” Hormel said in a statement, adding that its company-owed farms are slated to be gestation crate-free by next year.
The Maschhoffs is also conducting an investigation in the wake of the undercover video. Bradley Wolter, the Illinois-based company’s president, said Tuesday that any animal care deficiencies discovered in the probe will be addressed as quickly as possible.
“We view animal care as a continuous-improvement process,” Wolter said. “We will continue to make investments to further our animal care standards in the future. Properly caring for our animals is of the utmost importance.”
Wolter added that the company — whose motto is “Progressive Farming. Family Style.” – has a zero tolerance policy for the abuse or mistreatment of pigs.