The operators of a farm where workers were secretly videotaped abusing pigs said Thursday they were launching an investigation and those responsible would be fired.
MowMar LLP of Fairmont, Minn., said in a statement that it is "surprised and outraged" by the actions captured this summer in undercover video by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. MowMar purchased the Greene County, Iowa, farm last month from an Iowa company.
"As a family-owned farm operation with over 30 years in the swine business, MowMar farms does not and will not tolerate the mistreatment of any animals under our husbandry and we take these PETA allegations very seriously," the company said.
The farm, about 60 miles west of Des Moines, is a supplier to Hormel Foods of Austin, Minn., the maker of Spam and other products.
MowMar officials said they met early Thursday with PETA officials to talk about what the company planned to do to correct the situation.
The company said it would also bring in an animal-handling expert to review procedures at the farm and might install video-monitoring equipment to oversee future treatment of animals.
"Current and future employees ... will receive extensive training on our policies and the proper treatment of animals on our farms," the company said.
Criminal charges contemplated
The PETA video, shot by undercover employees from June through this month, graphically depicts workers castrating piglets without anesthetic, slamming unhealthy piglets on the ground to kill them, and repeatedly kicking pigs or hitting them with rods.
At one point on the video, a supervisor tells an undercover PETA investigator that when he gets angry or a sow won't move, "I grab one of these rods and jam it in her (anus)."
Greene County Sheriff Tom Heater said Thursday that authorities have been interviewing employees. He said he hopes to have charges filed by the middle of next week.
PETA wants 18 people prosecuted on animal-cruelty violations. The group also wants to raise awareness about animal cruelty at factory farms.
"This isn't about one farm, of course — it's about a culture of cruelty that exists everyplace we go undercover on a factory farm or slaughterhouse," said PETA Vice President Bruce Friedrich. He added that the group's many investigations show that "eating factory farmed meat supports cruelty to animals."
In February, an undercover video shot by the Humane Society of the United States sparked an investigation that led to the largest beef recall in U.S. history. The video showed workers at the Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. of Chino, Calif., shocking, kicking and shoving debilitated cattle with forklifts.