Hog exchange owner reacts to video showing abuse

Hidden-camera video shot at Western Hog Exchange’s handling facilities in Red Deer has attracted the scrutiny of CTV’s investigative program W5.

Hidden-camera video shot at Western Hog Exchange’s handling facilities in Red Deer has attracted the scrutiny of CTV’s investigative program W5.

The producer-owned marketing organization issued a news release on Thursday confirming that W5 contacted it in early September to say that it had obtained a video showing the mistreatment of animals at a Western Hog Exchange facility. Brent Moen, chairman of the Western Hog Exchange’s board of directors, told the Advocate on Friday that the facility was in Red Deer.

“What we did immediately is we contacted the Alberta chapter of the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) and we contacted the CFIA (Canadian Food Inspection Agency) office in Calgary,” he said.

“We asked W5 to turn the tapes over to the authorities immediately so we could do an investigation.”

W5 replied that the video was provided by a third party on the understanding that it would be used only for the production of W5’s show. It was later revealed that the third party was Mercy For Animals — an activist organization dedicated to the prevention of cruelty to farmed animals.

Moen agreed to watch the video and to be interviewed by W5 staff last week.

“I did find some of the information disturbing and shocking,” he said.

“Some of the segments clearly showed that the policies and procedures that we have in our training manual, for all of our employees to follow, were not being executed 100 per cent of the time.”

But, added Moen, the video distorted the situation by compressing two months of activity into about 30 to 40 minutes. It also presented scenes that would be upsetting to most laypersons but reflect standard practices in the livestock industry — such as euthanizing hogs that arrived sick or injured.

“It’s not pretty; it’s not what we as producers want to see — but it happens.”

Western Hog Exchange arranged for three Red Deer vets who specialize in swine to inspect the handling facility, said Moen.

“They came back to us with generally a very positive report, but they also identified a few areas that they suggested improvements. And we will act on those.”

Jennifer Woods, a recognized expert in livestock transport and handling, was also invited onto the site. Her formal report isn’t expected for at least a week, said Moen.

“But her overall assessment to our team in Red Deer yesterday was that things look pretty good.”

Western Hog Exchange has continued to urge Mercy For Animals to turn the video over to the SPCA and CFIA.

“If we have clearly committed physical abuse action toward animals, as decided by industry specialists, not as decided by the Mercy For Animals people, we will take action on that.”

But Moen doesn’t think the video shows anything that would result in punitive action by the SPCA or CFIA.

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.

“We have operated this facility under our organization and its previous organization corporate name for almost 20 years and we have never had a complaint lodged against us by the CFIA, which is our managing agency, or secondly by the SPCA,” said Moen.