A newly released undercover video from Hormel Foods supplier Quality Pork Processors claims to show inhumane treatment of pigs as they are being slaughtered. The USDA has stated that it is investigating the video, while QPP and others in the meat industry are stated that the edited video gives a one-sided, inaccurate look at the company’s processes.
The video was released by Compassion over Killing, a group that promotes vegetarian diets. It shows pigs being dragged across the floor and beaten with paddles. It also claims that animals at the plant, located in Austin, Minn., shows pigs that were still alive after being stunned, and writing in pain as they are bled out. An unedited version of the video has been submitted to the USDA, which has said it will investigate the allegations, reports the Washington Post.
"The actions depicted in the video under review are appalling and completely unacceptable, and if we can verify the video’s authenticity, we will aggressively investigate the case and take appropriate action," said USDA spokesman Adam Tarr, adding that the agency can't comment definitively in the middle of the probe.
A spokesman for QPP says that the edited video appears to show violations where none exists. Contaminants shows early in the slaughter process, such as feces on the carcass, are removed further down the line. Nate Jensen, Vice President of Human Resources and Quality Services at QPP, says that the unedited video shows employees following proper procedures.
"Quality pork processors operates under some of the highest standards and procedures to ensure the food we produce is safe," Jensen said. "We work closely with the USDA in ensuring we comply with and exceed all safety and quality standards."
According to KAAL News, two employees at QPP violated policies in the video, including the undercover contractor who filmed the video. Those violations has already been noted by QPP through its internal auditing processes. One employee received written discipline and retraining on company policy before the video was released. Jensen says the audit also revealed the employee who took the video was seen violating company policy by "intentionally creating contamination" on the line.
QPP is a supplier to Hormel Foods. Hormel has released a statement that reads, “Hormel Foods is committed to animal care and has high standards and policies with our suppliers. We have a zero tolerance policy for the inhumane treatment of animals, and we remain dedicated to the highest standards for animal care and handling.
“Routine audits are conducted at all facilities, and we hire third-party auditors to ensure the highest animal care procedures are followed.
“Our suppliers operate under very visible conditions, including third-party video monitoring and the USDA is present during all operations. After reviewing the edited video, we are conducting a review of processes and procedures with QPP and will ensure appropriate actions are taken.”
The North American Meat Institute has also released a statement about the video, Animal handling expert Dr. Temple Grandin, among others, reviewed the video and concluded that the allegations that the animals were alive and in pain during the slaughter process were false.
“We saw no breathing, natural blinking or a righting reflex that would suggest anything other than an insensible animal. While the video’s creator highlighted one pig on a rail and said it was showing a “righting reflex,” the video was distant and blurry and the pig’s neck was obscured by a beam or piece of equipment so it would seem impossible for anyone to make a definitive determination based upon the clip provided,” the statement reads.
“As the company acknowledged, the undercover video showed some unacceptable rough handling in the aggressive use of the rattle paddle to drive animals and some overcrowding. It should be reassuring to note that the company identified the inappropriate use of the paddle through its own in-house video monitoring system weeks before it was aware of the COK video and took the appropriate steps to discipline and retrain the employee long before this video became public.
Although the rough handling was unacceptable, the most critical aspect of the slaughter process – proper stunning – appeared to be working well,” it adds.
QPP is one of five pork plants participating in the HACCP-Based Inspection Models Project (HIMP) program, which places more responsibility for inspection on the companies themselves and allocates federal inspectors to focus more on food safety. The program has been supported by the meat industry and the USDA, but it has been criticized by former inspectors, among others.
Erica Meier, executive director of Compassion Over Killing, told Reuters the video was filmed by a contractor, who took a job at the plant a few months ago. Meier said the USDA's HIMP program took inspectors away from the area being filmed."
The fact that there aren't USDA inspectors there prevents them from taking immediate action," she said.