Independent, nationally and world-renowned academic and professional experts in farmed animal welfare and veterinary medicine reviewed the video footage from MFA Canada's undercover investigation at a Puratone pig barn. Below are some of their statements:
Temple Grandin, PhD, PAS
Dr. Grandin is considered the world's leading expert on farmed animal welfare. She is an associate professor of livestock behaviour at Colorado State University and an animal welfare advisor to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the meat industry. Dr. Grandin has previously denounced the use of gestation crates by pork suppliers:
[G]estation crates for pigs are a real problem ... Basically, you're asking a sow to live in an airline seat ... I think it's something that needs to be phased out.
Regarding practices at the Puratone barn, Dr. Grandin states:
The farm is poorly managed and it is obvious that the employees have not been trained in proper procedures.
When blunt force trauma was performed, the blows did not have sufficient force. Blunt force trauma is a method that the industry should phase out.
This farm also appeared to have a poor health program because there were many dead piglets and sows with lesions.
Ian Duncan, PhD
Dr. Duncan is Professor Emeritus of Applied Ethology in the Department of Animal and Poultry Science at the University of Guelph and also holds the oldest University Chair in Animal Welfare in North America. He has published two books, 35 book chapters, and more than 150 scientific papers. Dr. Duncan states:
In my opinion, this attempt to kill a sow ... using a captive bolt gun ... (and) jabbing into her brain with some sort of metal rod (while) the sow is still conscious ... led to a huge amount of unnecessary suffering. It is the worst cruelty inflicted on an animal that I have witnessed in many years.
Regarding the maiming and killing of piglets at the facility, Dr. Duncan states:
... piglets having their testes removed and their tails snipped off without any analgesia. In my opinion, this is evidence of unnecessary suffering although it is the industry "normal" treatment for young piglets ... piglets being killed by blunt trauma ... the farm laborer seems completely unskilled at this task. He sometimes bangs the piglets against the vertical bars of a pen and sometimes on the ground. He also has to repeat the blunt trauma on several piglets showing that his first attempt was unsuccessful. In my opinion, this would lead to unnecessary suffering.
Mary Richardson, DVM
For over 20 years, Dr. Richardson has been involved in animal welfare issues. She chaired the Animal Welfare Committee for the Ontario Veterinary Medical Association and produced policy statements on a wide range of topics. She also served as Chair of the Animal Care Review Board for the Solicitor General of Ontario, during which she presided over court cases involving animal abuse. Dr. Richardson was also a Board member of the Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare at the University of Guelph. She states:
The video of this pig farm clearly shows evidence of abuse and neglect leading to tremendous, unnecessary suffering.
Clearly, many sows in the barn have chronic, painful, untreated wounds: raw skin ulcers, weeping eye infections, a rectal prolapse.
There is a strong sense of disrespect for the pigs: one worker is seen jumping up and down on a dead sow, another is trying to shove a sow back into a farrowing crate that she can barely fit into and the pens are filthy with feces and maggots.
Nicholas Dodman, DVM
Dr. Nicholas Dodman is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Behaviorists, and Professor, Section Head and Program Director of the Animal Behavior Department of Clinical Sciences at Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. He is certified with the American College of Veterinary Anesthesiologists and the American College of Veterinary Behavior. He is one of the world’s most noted and celebrated veterinary behaviorists, and is the author of four best-selling books on animal behavior as well as two textbooks and more than 100 articles and contributions to scientific books and journals. Dr. Dodman states:
I did not think the pig shot with the captive bolt pistol was unconscious after being shot. It was left immobilized and blinking.
The thumping was not effective - piglets were still conscious after being smashed against the concrete floor or a metal post.
The gestation and farrowing crates are horrible, leaving the sows no room to move - for months - yet pigs are intelligent, sentient creatures. The stereotypies are a sign of bad welfare. These pigs go completely mad because of the unconscionable mental suffering they are obliged to endure.
Medical treatment of serious veterinary matters was non- existent. The pigs were just left to suffer, and in some cases, die.
In my opinion, the owners, operators and handlers should all receive stiff prison sentences for animal cruelty.
Debi Zimmermann, DVM
Dr. Zimmermann graduated from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine in 1988. In addition to her doctorate degree, she holds a degree in Biology with a specialization in Zoology (University of Alberta). She is a member of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, the Alberta Veterinary Medical Association, the Edmonton Small Animal Veterinary Association, and the International Veterinary Academy of Pain Management. Dr. Zimmermann states:
From the moment of birth to the terrifying and undignified end to their unnaturally short lives, these animals endure a life filled with privations, unrelenting physical, mental pain and emotional distress.
The conditions and treatment these pigs are subjected to are entirely inhumane, not only from a veterinary standpoint but from a moral one as well.
No sentient being should have to endure surgical procedures without anesthetic or pain relief. No one should be allowed to languish in austere, unforgiving concrete and metal prisons barely larger than they are, and to then suffer with untreated festering sores, crippling conditions and psychological derangement created by such an environment. No creature should be forced to live in, let alone eat and drink from feces-laden, maggot infested surroundings.
Kees Scheepens, DVM
Dr. Kees Scheepens is a veterinarian and author of several books on raising pigs according to advanced humane methods. Dr. Scheepens works with producer groups around the world providing practical training seminars on how to better read and understand the signals pigs give about their health, well-being, and performance. He farms with his wife and children in the Eindhoven area in The Netherlands. Dr. Scheepens states:
The method used to kill piglets at this barn - pounding their heads on the concrete - is medieval, and the workers show utter contempt to animals who are widely regarded as the most sensitive and intelligent of all farm animals.
The castration of piglets without anesthesia is cruel and illegal in the European Union.
Gestation crates have been proven to cause psychological and physical suffering - as is clear in footage from this barn. This is why use of the crates after the first four weeks of pregnancy will be banned in the European Union as of January 1st, 2013.
Olivier Berreville, PhD (Biology)
Dr. Berreville holds a PhD in Biology from Dalhousie University. Growing up around farm animals in Europe, he has also acquired field experience documenting the confinement, transportation and slaughter of animals in Canada. He has presented on various aspects of farmed animal welfare at universities, institutes, and conferences. He states:
The footage shows a lack of care for animals who are left suffering from painful pressure wounds, eye infections and injuries. In addition to physical suffering, the barren environment and confinement to sow stalls leads to needless chronic stress, as evidenced by stereotypical behaviour exhibited by the animals. Such an environment is completely unacceptable for animals as intelligent and sensitive as pigs.
The castration procedure used by workers is a crude and extremely painful method - yet neither anesthetics nor analgesics are provided to the piglets. This severe pain is additionally unnecessary as studies have shown only 3% of intact male pigs develop tainted meat from hormone release.
The killing methods used in this facility are ineffective and cruel. Thumping (the knocking of an animal's head on the ground) is unreliable, often leaving piglets conscious and suffering.
Erika Sullivan, DVM
Dr. Sullivan graduated from the Ontario Veterinary College in Guelph in 2005, receiving 11 veterinary academic awards and honors in recognition of her academic performance. Her published works include articles in veterinary medical journals on her experience with wildlife rehabilitation projects in Africa and Thailand. She works in Toronto, Ontario, and recently was certified in veterinary acupuncture. Dr. Sullivan states:
Workers in this barn grabbed sows by their ears, or kicked them in the head or abdomen -- all with no purposeful intention besides human rage.
Sows became stuck in gestation crates resulting in pain, and sometimes death.
The pigs in this footage are ill. They scream in pain, suffer mental distress and do not exhibit any of the natural or inherent behaviours that pigs in the wild display.
Anya Yushchenko, DVM
Dr. Anya Yushchenko graduated from Kharhov Zooveterinary Academy in Ukraine in 2002. During her studies she worked at various pig farms in Denmark and Finland. After moving to Canada in 2007, Dr. Yushchenko completed her national board exams and graduated from the Veterinary Skills Training and Enhancement Program at the Ontario Veterinary College. As part of her field placement Dr. Yushchenko assisted at a large animal clinic in South-Western Ontario and visited numerous farms and animal auctions. Currently, she works at the East York Animal Clinic and Holistic Centre in Toronto, Ontario. Dr. Yuschenko states:
Injuries and traumas are endless at this farm. Chronic ulcers are left open and exposed to constant trauma.
Workers use scalpels to cut into fully conscious piglets and their tails are chopped off without anesthetics or analgesics. This is completely unacceptable.
Naturally curious sows are deprived of all stimulation and eventually resort to stereotypical behaviour - a visible form of psychological disturbance. The sows push their noses between the bars of their cages frantically, desperately seeking a way out, eventually falling into a pattern of repeated motion, day after day, month after month, year after year.
Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production
After a comprehensive two-year study, the independent Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, a project of The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health concluded that gestation crates should be phased out:
After reviewing the literature, visiting production facilities, and listening to producers themselves, the Commission believes that the most intensive confinement systems, such as restrictive veal crates, hog gestation pens, restrictive farrowing crates, and battery cages for poultry, all prevent the animal from a normal range of movement and constitute inhumane treatment.
Scientific Veterinary Committee of the European Commission
The Scientific Veterinary Committee provides veterinary expertise to the executive body of the European Union.
When sows are put into a very small pen, they indicate by their behavioural responses that they find the confinement aversive. If given the opportunity, they leave the confined space and they usually resist attempts to make them return to that place.
Farmers often comment that their stall-housed or tethered sows are lying for much of the day. Since the extent of the inactivity and unresponsiveness indicates abnormal behaviour, the sows may well be depressed in the clinical sense and poor welfare is indicated. Some sows show this abnormal behaviour as an alternative to stereotypies and there are brain correlates of both of these types of abnormal behaviour.
Recommendation: Since overall welfare appears to be better when sows are not confined throughout gestation, sows should preferably be kept in groups.