Animal Advocates Take Action on Slaughterhouse Cruelty When USDA Won’t

What do you do if you have tons of undercover video footage of animal cruelty in a slaughterhouse? You turn it over to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for action. What do you do if USDA does nothing with that evidence? If you’re a national animal advocacy group called Compassion Over Killing (COK), you take the facility to court yourself.

That’s what happened on Dec. 17, 2016, when COK filed a complaint seeking a warrant and animal cruelty investigation of Quality Pork Processors (QPP). QPP runs a pig slaughter plant in Austin, Minn.

Back in late 2015, COK released undercover video footage taken in the plant, which is the exclusive pork supplier to Hormel Foods Corporation. Here’s that video:

It’s pretty awful stuff, and this video is the short version. COK’s unedited version is an appalling 97 minutes long.

Minnesota’s animal cruelty law, Minn. Stat.§ 343.21, states that “[n]o person shall willfully instigate or in any way further any act of cruelty to any animal or animals, or any act tending to produce cruelty to animals,” where “cruelty” means “every act, omission, or neglect which causes or permits unnecessary or unjustifiable pain, suffering, or death,” and “animal” refers to all non-human animals, according to the COK complaint.

Interestingly, Minnesota’s animal cruelty law does not exclude farm animals or farming practices. That’s unusual. It’s that anomaly that enables COK to pursue QPP for criminal animal cruelty under this statute. COK’s complaint seeks a finding that there is probable cause of violation of state law. It asks for a warrant and an appropriate investigation into its cruelty complaint.

Worker lifts a down pig that can't walk by itself.  Photo credit: Compassion Over Killing

QPP worker lifts a down pig that can’t walk by itself. Photo credit: Compassion Over Killing

As COK describes in its filing, an undercover investigator spent six months working at the QPP plant. During that tenure, he witnessed and recorded many horrific things including:

  • Conscious pigs being dragged
  • Pigs being improperly stunned (i.e. ineffectively stunned and double stunned), which means it is highly likely some of them went into the scalding tank while still alive
  • Pigs abused with electric prods
  • Pigs maliciously beaten, pushed, kicked and otherwise severely mistreated
  • Sick and injured pigs (called “downers”) being egregiously abused because they couldn’t walk to the kill floor
  • A QPP supervisor sleeping instead of overseeing the stunning process

Here are some highlights from COK’s Dec. 17 filing:

  • “Workers were documented forcefully beating pigs with their ‘rattle paddles,’ lifting animals by their legs, tails, or ears, and forcing pigs out of pens even when they were downed to accelerate transferring the pigs from one location to another, despite knowing that these shortcuts cause avoidable pain, fear, agitation and distress…”
  • “Despite their welfare training and large posters with clear diagrams instructing workers where not to prod animals, workers still prodded animals in sensitive areas such as their faces and around their genitals.”
  • “They also used the electric prods liberally and cavalierly, despite that they are intended to be used sparingly and when all other attempts to move the animals fail.”
  • A QPP worker “bragged how he intentionally botches his stunning of animals ‘just to see if the guy [at the sticking table] is a pussy or not. [Another worker] always bitches and has them shot. I just stick them.’”
  • “…another worker admitted that when he sees a conscious pig at the ‘sticking table’ (i.e. slaughter station), he typically slaughters them without re-stunning them, saying, ‘Most of the time, I just stick it.’”
  • “…workers going on staff break while delaying the euthanasia of downed pigs, leaving them to suffer, outside of pens, without access to water…”
  • “…pigs being overcrowded into pens and corridors where they trample one another.”
  • Workers “ignore the suffering of downed animals to continue driving the healthier pigs through to stunning, despite knowing that timely euthanasia is the more humane action.”
  • “…a QPP supervisor acknowledged that workers are supposed to use ‘sleds’ to move disabled animals, but asserted that they ‘don’t have time for that.’”

It’s quite a parade of horribles, isn’t it? Surely these heartbreaking abuses are still going on at QPP, day by miserable day.

COK turned over its evidence to the USDA. Here’s where the disappointment starts. USDA apparently elected to do nothing at all about any of this abuse.

After reviewing COK’s video, the USDA told the group its investigation corroborated COK’s findings and said the documented abuses were “appalling and completely unacceptable.” However, according to COK, the USDA concluded, “Had these actions been observed by FSIS inspectors, they would have resulted in immediate regulatory action against the plant.”

Even though the evidence was on video for all to see, because the abuses didn’t happen in front of Food Safety and Inspection Service inspectors, USDA chose to do nothing about it. The state failed to do anything either. That’s your tax dollars hard at work, folks.

Downer pig about to be stunned and slaughtered.  Photo credit: Compassion Over Killing

Downer pig at QPP about to be stunned and slaughtered. Photo credit: Compassion Over Killing

Outraged, aren’t you? You should be. COK wasn’t pleased either, so it took the only action left to it. It’s pursuing direct enforcement of the state’s animal cruelty law against QPP.

“We’re confident our evidence shows blatant violations of Minnesota criminal animal cruelty law,” Cheryl Leahy, COK General Counsel, said in a statement. “State authorities have declined to take action, despite having indisputable video proof of the abuse, so we’ve decided to use the legal recourse available in Minnesota to stand up for animals.”

If you’re still eating bacon, ham, pepperoni pizza or myriad other pork products, you’re supporting this inhumane industry. Please don’t do it anymore. Ill treatment of the animals we call “livestock” is pervasive throughout the industrialized farming machine.

These animals wish to live just as you do. They value their lives every bit as much as you do. Our society kills them because we’re stronger and we think they’re tasty to eat, but that does not make it the ethical or honorable thing to do. Might does not make right.

Thank you, Compassion Over Killing. Thank you for shining a red hot laser beam at QPP. Thank you for not letting them off the hook. Thank you for stepping up to do something for these pigs when the federal agency charged with that type of enforcement failed to do its damn job.

Bravo, COK. We wish you success in this effort.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

114 comments

Peggy B
Peggy B10 months ago

TYFS

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Michael Friedmann
Michael Friedmann10 months ago

Thank You for Sharing This !!!

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Danuta W
Danuta W10 months ago

:(

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Angel W
Past Member 10 months ago

disgusting

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Chrissie R
Chrissie R10 months ago

Thank you for posting.

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Catherine G
Past Member 10 months ago

Pigs are the sweetest, cutest, most adorable. How can anyone treat them like this?

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Stephanie s
Stephanie Y10 months ago

The meat industry is an evil heartless one.

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Marie W
Marie W1 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Melania P
Melania Padilla2 years ago

USDA.... Ok.... Activists are the real heroes here, and people who choose to eat compassionately. Animal farms are one of the worst things humanity has done to animals. Thanks for posting, sharing as well!

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Mark Donner
Mark Donner2 years ago

Most of what is called "humanity" is a cancerous disease on Planet Earth and an ABOMINATION on life.

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