PETA complains about pig treatment after Suffolk wreck

Published 10:28 pm Wednesday, October 1, 2008

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has requested an investigation into the treatment of pigs after a transport truck crash in Suffolk last month.

Dan Paden, a researcher with the Norfolk-based organization’s cruelty investigations department, sent a letter dated Sept. 29 to the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office to request investigation and prosecution. The letter accuses employees of Murphy-Brown, LLC and Goldsboro Hog Farms of numerous violations of Virginia’s animal cruelty statutes.

According to PETA’s complaint, a truck carrying about 190 live pigs headed northbound on Route 10 overturned at the intersection of Godwin Boulevard and Kingsdale Road at approximately 8:40 a.m. on Sept. 8. Workers employed by Murphy-Brown and Goldsboro came and reloaded about 125 pigs who survived the incident to transport to Smithfield for slaughter. Some pigs were not driven away from the scene until almost six hours after the crash, according to the complaint.

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During that time, workers were documented pulling pigs by the ears and striking them in the face, head and side with boards, paddles and their hands, the complaint says.

“Pork industry publications and expert statements confirm that the term “responsible handling” excludes the acts of pulling any animals by their ears and striking them in the face,” the complaint says. It also documents the statements of several industry experts, all of whom agree that striking pigs and pulling them by the ears is not acceptable.

PETA gathered its evidence from video Paden shot on the scene, as well as video provided from other organizations with permission for its use, Paden said.

After working for PETA for more than four years, Paden believes accident response practices will not change until someone is prosecuted.

“After witnessing five of these crashes, I’ve become convinced that animals will not be humanely and lawfully handled after an incident unless the pork industry or its employees are charged and convicted for cruelty to animals,” Paden said.

Even though the companies involved claim to have trained their employees on how to round up animals involved in accidents, he hasn’t seen much difference, Paden said.

“The only change I’ve observed is that the industry brings bigger and more tarps to prevent the public from seeing how they handle and kill these animals.”

Paden said that responsible, humane ways of responding to animal transport accidents are available.

“The first priority, after securing the scene for the public’s welfare and the responders’ welfare, should be euthanizing severely injured animals who are not going to recover,” Paden said.

After that, “mobile animals who are fit to be transported can be humanely and professionally handled using sorting panels, rattles, flags and other humane tools that Smithfield and the entire pork industry has available to them,” Paden said.

The workers at the scene used these tools, according to the complaint, but not in the proper manner. Rather, they used them to strike the animals, Paden said. Sorting panels are meant to create a makeshift track to guide pigs where to go, and rattles and flags are meant to turn animals by shaking the tools near their head on the opposite side from the direction they are desired to turn.

Also, dragging pigs by the ears is not humane treatment, he said.

“These are 265-pound animals, and their full body weight is being yanked by these delicate appendages,” he said. “There’s no need for it.”

Paden said he had been contacted by the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s investigator to confirm that he had received the complaint, and anticipated looking into it soon.

You can view a video, compiled by PETA, of footage from the incident at http://blog.peta.org/archives/2008/09/pigs_survive_he.php.