On Wednesday, this shocking video was uploaded to YouTube. The graphic footage shows numerous violations of both animal rights and food safety protocols, as pigs are beaten and then slaughtered, sometimes while visibly conscious.
“That one was definitely alive,” says one employee as a bleeding pig passes him on the assembly line.
The footage was captured by an undercover investigator with Compassion Over Killing, an animal rights nonprofit. The group claims that the footage was shot inside Quality Pork Processors, a privately-held meat processing company located in Austin, Minnesota. According to its website, QPP supplies over 50 percent of the pork raw material needs for Hormel.
COK’s investigator shot hours of raw video inside QPP’s plant, which has been turned over to the United States Department of Agriculture. In a statement, the Department’s Food Safety Inspection Service has said it will “aggressively investigate the case and take appropriate action” if the footage is verified as legitimate. “The actions depicted in the video under review are completely unacceptable,” said USDA spokesman Adam Tarr.
Sick and Injured Pigs Improperly Stunned and Burned Alive
Under the federal Humane Slaughter Act, livestock must be completely sedated and “rendered insensible to pain” before they are slaughtered. In the YouTube video, pigs are beaten, shocked, dragged and improperly stunned – rendering them still conscious and moving – before their throats are slit. Some pigs remain conscious even after this process, and are then scalded alive.
According to the USDA’s Tarr, federal inspectors were actually on duty at the QPP plant, but the video may have been shot in areas that were outside their view. “Had these actions been observed by the inspectors, they would have resulted in immediate regulatory action against the plant,” said Tarr.
As COK points out, the footage also reveals sickening violations of human health standards, such as pigs “covered in feces or pus-filled abscesses being slaughtered and processed for human consumption with a USDA inspection seal of approval.”
Sick and injured pigs, termed “downers,” are shown to bear some of the worst abuse before being slaughtered and dragged to processing.
Meat Processes Are Policing Themselves
The Huffington Post reports that QPP is one of five pork processors that is participating in the federal Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point-Based Inspection Models Project, or HIMP. Launched in the ‘90s, HIMP was supposed to create a more flexible and efficient meat and poultry inspection system by allowing processors to take over carcass inspection from federal employees. In other words, the meat processors are policing themselves.
The USDA claims HIMP has been effective, and with 1,300 hogs killed every hour (and 19,000 hogs killed every day), QPP would probably agree. But if the footage shot by COK is indicative of HIMP-sanctioned practices, the system needs thorough reconsideration.
Compassion Over Killing has created a petition on change.org to shut down HIMP.
“[T]his facility operates at faster line speeds than almost any other facility in the U.S.,” Compassion Over Killing said in a statement. “The excessive slaughter line speed forces workers to take inhumane shortcuts that lead to extreme suffering for millions of pigs. It also jeopardizes food safety for consumers.”
Nate Jansen, Vice-President of Human Resources and Quality Services at QPP, has said that the YouTube video has been edited to depict an inaccurate view of the company’s facility and practices. “If you look at them as a full sequence, with the handling, you will see those animals were handled according to acceptable regulations and policies and our own internal procedures,” Jansen told HuffPo. “I’ve got complete trust in the foods that we produce.”