Authorities in Greene County in west central Iowa on October 22 filed charges against six farm employees for animal abuse and neglect in connection with a video obtained by an animal rights group that showed workers abusing pigs.
The investigation by the county sheriff came after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals released a video in September of workers at a farm near Bayard. The video showed the workers hitting sows with metal rods to get them to move. It also showed the workers slamming baby pigs on a concrete floor. The farm is owned by MowMar Farms LLP of Fairmont, Minn.
According to Greene County Sheriff Tom Heater, four of the workers no longer work at the hog farm, while two others are still employed there. Those charged: Jordan Anderson, 26, of Audubon, a former on-site manager; Greg Hackler, 18, of Jefferson; Shawn Lyons, 35, of Bayard; Shelly Mauch, 34, of Scranton; Richard Ralston, 27, of Bayard; and Alan Rettig, 60, of Scranton.
Comments from Coalition To Support Iowa's Farmers
Responding to the animal abuse incident at the large hog farm near Bayard, the Coalition to Support Iowa's Farmers issued the following editorial column. It is written by Aaron Putze, executive director of CSIF, an organization which supports the responsible and profitable growth of Iowa's livestock industry. It is titled: "Proper Animal Care at the Heart of Being a Livestock Farmer," by Aaron Putze.
My office phone rang. It was a farmer. "Have you seen the video?" the caller asked with a blend of anger and disbelief in his voice.
I hadn't, but within minutes of arriving at work earlier that morning, I knew all about it. News outlets and the blogosphere were buzzing over the release of video depicting various incidents of animal cruelty on a western Iowa hog farm. The footage, assembled by animal rights advocates posing as farm employees, showed coworkers allegedly abusing the very same animals they were entrusted to care for.
"This is sickening. It's outrageous," the farmer added emphatically. "Who would do something like that?"
The rhetorical question was a good one, asked by a multitude of other farmers who called the Coalition to Support Iowa's Farmers Sept. 16 shortly after the video was made public by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Other callers expressed similar outrage. "That's not what we do out here," said another farmer adamantly. "The folks on that video aren't the kind of livestock farmers I know."
The indignation expressed by farmers that day was real and echoed by the Coalition in conversations with the news media. "Those involved in these reprehensible acts are not worthy of being associated with animal agriculture," CSIF said in a statement. "Furthermore, the actions of those involved are not representative of the many men and women who are entrusted with the care of food-production animals."
"Truer words have never been spoken and CSIF has video and audio to prove it. Last July, almost two months to the day before PETA's footage made headlines, the Coalition had in-depth conversations with nine farm families as part of a week-long tour of livestock, dairy and poultry farms.
Each visit included lengthy discussions about animal well-being. One farmer reminisced about the stormy night he spent sleeping in his hog barn, closely monitoring the weather to ensure it never lost power. Another young farmer spoke with pride about the priority he places on caring for his animals. "Their health is very important to me," said Randy Christensen, a 24-year-old farmer and Iowa State University graduate who raises hogs near Scranton. "I take care of those animals almost like they're my kids."
"Additional farmers offered similar testimonials. They talked about the preventative care used to keep their animals healthy. They pointed to the water misters installed in their barns that cool hogs on hot, summer afternoons. And they provided tours of their new hoop beef buildings – tarp-covered structures that protect the cattle from ice, rain, snow, heat and mud while offering them easy access to fresh water and feed.
Farmers choose to raise livestock because they value the opportunity to care for animals. They huddle in the freezing cold to help a cow calve. They navigate flood waters to rescue stranded livestock. They stand firm in the path of an approaching tornado to finish milking. They brave frostbite to get frozen water pipes working. They do these things because they want to while knowing that healthy livestock translate directly into quality products for consumers.
Good animal care is at the heart of what it means to be a livestock farmer. Always has. Always will."