A Minnesota pork processing company says it is taking "significant corrective measures" after an undercover video was released by an animal rights group, which it says shows inhumane treatment of pigs as they are prepared for slaughter.
Compassion Over Killing released the graphic video Wednesday it says was taken at the Quality Pork Processors facility in Austin – a slaughterhouse that supplies to Hormel Foods – showing “pigs as they are pushed, prodded and dragged to their death,” the group said on its website.
Quality Pork Processors (QPP) said in a news release Friday it is "very disappointed by the actions of some employees," and those actions don't represent the "collective culture of animal care" that the company espouses.
Hormel Foods, QPP's main customer, said late Thursday it, too, was disturbed by the video.
"These actions do not reflect the values of Hormel Foods, its employees or its customers. Our Supplier Responsibility Principles are clear as to our expectations of our suppliers, and the behavior depicted in the undercover video is unacceptable," said Hormel in its statement.
Hormel demanded that QPP take the steps it announced Friday, according to the Star Tribune.
Among those steps:
-Further disciplinary action against employees who exhibited aggressive or inappropriate behavior;
-Retraining of all employees on proper animal handling and employee conduct;
-In addition to existing 24/7 video monitoring and surveillance, increasing the review frequency by a third party company;
-Increasing third party audits, including additional surprise audits;
-Placement of "humane handling officers" to observe all animal handling in the operation;
-Implementation of a confidential hotline for employees to report any actions that do not meet our standards for animal care and welfare.
QPP added it will issue a public report on its progress and additional actions in the next 30 days.
Hormel Foods said it's placing its own "humane handling officers" at the QPP facility to ensure compliance with Hormel Foods animal welfare standards.
An unedited version of the video was given to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which called the actions in the video “appalling and completely unacceptable,” the Washington Post says. The agency has promised to “aggressively investigate the case and take appropriate action.”
Questions about oversight
Compassion Over Killing is also concerned about the process the slaughterhouse uses. QPP is one of five pork processors participating in a government-approved pilot program, known as the HACCP-Based Inspection Models Project (HIMP), which gives meat processors more responsibility over the inspection process, allowing them to operate at faster processing speeds.
The program, which began in the 1990s, is controversial, with some concerned faster line speeds and less oversight lead to the inhumane treatment of animals and jeopardize food safety.
Compassion Over Killing is among the groups speaking out against the program, claiming the USDA is “essentially giving” the pork industry a “free pass to police itself,” and has started a Change.org petition to put an end to the HIMP pilot program.
The USDA disputes those claims, according to the Associated Press.