The chairman of the Western Hog Exchange says his organization is taking steps to prevent the kind of animal abuse that was shown on video broadcast by CTV’s investigative program W5 on Saturday.
The images, which were recorded secretly by a member of Mercy For Animals Canada at Western Hog Exchange’s handling facility in Red Deer, showed pigs that had been badly injured in transport, were packed tightly into holding pens, and were being kicked and beaten by workers.
“At the end of the day, I take responsibility for what we have done and I pledge that we will make changes and improve it,” said Brent Moen.
“We have clearly communicated to all of our employees what our expectation is; we have clearly outlined to them the consequences of improper action; and we have followed up on that by dismissing one employee and dismissing two others.”
Moen said he didn’t want to minimize the seriousness of this matter, but pointed out that the abuses recorded occurred over a two-month period, and that the video did not show what happened immediately prior to or after the mistreatment.
“To imply that it happens every day, I don’t believe it does. But that said, we are making changes to better manage what happens in our facilities, and I can assure you if it does happen the people that violate our code of practice will be dealt with.”
Moen said a team of veterinarians, and livestock transport and handling expert Jennifer Woods, have each inspected the Red Deer facility and provided recommendations for improvement. Periodic inspections will also be conducted in the future, he added.
The Western Hog Exchange has asked Mercy For Animals Canada to release the video to the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) so that they might investigate, but Mercy For Animals Canada has so far not responded, said Moen.
“Mercy For Animals has an agenda in this.”
The animal rights organization issued a news release on Monday, in which it quoted Ian Duncan, a professor emeritus of applied ethology at the University of Guelph, as saying the video depicts “some of the worst abuse of animals” that he has ever seen.
It also showed CFIA officials on site while animals were being mistreated but apparently not responding.
A statement issued by the CFIA said it’s requested that the video be provided to it for review, but that Mercy For Animals Canada has refused. It added that it’s launched an internal review and met with inspection staff in the area to discuss their animal welfare responsibilities.
Moen said he’s concerned about the negative impact the video could have on people’s perception of livestock producers and processors, and acknowledged that he’s been subjected to verbal abuse by some.
“When they come to me and tell me that myself and my employees and all the people that participate in this industry should die and go to hell, I don’t believe that that is very constructive and the proper way to treat anybody.”
Western Hog Exchange’s handling facilities in Red Deer are connected to the Olymel pork processing plant. It receives about 40,000 market animals per week, with these delivered to Olymel. About 500 to 1,000 culled sows and boars also pass through weekly as they’re transloaded to other destinations.
An average of 20 people work there.