47 pigs die in crash

Published 10:43 pm Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The driver of a hog truck was charged with reckless driving after his truck crashed in the 5900 block of Godwin Boulevard early Tuesday morning, snarling traffic on Route 10 and along detour routes throughout the day.

Nearly four dozen animals either were killed in the wreck or were so severely injured that they had to be euthanized.

The wreck happened about 4:45 a.m., when the truck ran off the right side of the roadway, rolled onto its side and struck a pole, city spokeswoman Diana Klink said.

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The driver, William Orville Barnett, 42, of Fountain, N.C., also was charged with a logbook violation, Klink said. He was treated for minor injuries at the scene by Suffolk Fire and Rescue.

Murphy-Brown, the livestock production subsidiary of Smithfield Foods, responded to the accident because it has equipment and trained personnel in the area, said Don Butler, director of government relations and public affairs for Murphy-Brown.

“All of us wish those kinds of accidents would never happen,” Butler said. “They don’t happen very frequently.”

Butler said there were about 190 hogs on the truck, which was headed from North Carolina to a processing plant in Smithfield. Of those, 47 died or were euthanized.

The animals that were killed or euthanized will be taken to a rendering plant, where they will be processed into non-food products such as oils and greases.

“Any time an accident like that happens, animals that are lost or have to be euthanized are not sent to the human food chain,” Butler said.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals slammed the pork industry’s hiring practices following the crash.

“Because of the pork industry’s shameful record … the mangled remains of many pigs have been left on Virginia highways,” David Perle, senior media coordinator for the organization, said in a press release. “It’s high time that the pork industry enacted a strict safe-driver policy.”

Perle said this was the ninth crash of a truck carrying live pigs in southeastern Virginia since 2004.

In October 2008, the organization filed a complaint with the Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, calling for an investigation into the treatment of pigs by employees of Murphy-Brown and Goldsboro Hog Farms after a similar wreck, also on Godwin Boulevard, on Sept. 8 of that year.

Commonwealth’s Attorney C. Phillips Ferguson declined to press charges in that wreck.