Tyson subsidiary halts business with supplier accused of abuse

LITTLE ROCK — A subsidiary of Tyson Foods has stopped purchasing pigs from a Wyoming pig breeding supplier accused by an animal rights group of alleged cruel treatment of sows and inhumane conditions, a Tyson spokesman said Wednesday.

Also, Steve Keigley, sheriff of Platt County in Wyoming, said livestock officials in that state are investigating the cruelty allegations, caught in an undercover video taken last month at the facility.

“They are in the process of investigating this complaint,” the sheriff said, adding the video and other materials were provided to his office last week.

During a Little Rock news conference Tuesday, the Human Society of the United States showed reporters a video taken in April at Wyoming Premium Farms in Wheatland, Wyo. The video showed employees kicking live piglets, swinging piglets in circles by their hind legs and striking adult pigs with their feet and fists.

In one case, a pig with a broken leg is heard screaming in pain as a worker sits on it in an effort to get it to move.

The video was presented to Tyson officials in Springdale on Tuesday and officials with the world’s largest meat producer were asked to condemn the animal cruelty. They also were asked to stop purchasing pork from suppliers that use gestation crates, two-by-seven foot cages where pregnant sows are kept from moving freely.

Tyson spokesman Worth Sparkman said Tyson does not condone animal abuse shown in the video. He also said that Tyson did not purchase any hogs from the Wyoming farm for its food processing plants, but that some aged sows had been purchased by a subsidiary of Tyson.

Wednesday, Sparkman said the subsidiary had been asked to stop purchasing pigs from the Wyoming farm.

Sparkman said the subsidiary “has discontinued buying sows from the farm shown in the video.”

Tuesday, Sparkman also said Tyson was reviewing the use of gestation crates, as well as group housing for pigs, and there were a number of studies showing the advantages and disadvantages of both.

Sparkman said it was up to the individual farmers who supply Tyson to decide which one they want to use and that they must follow all rules and regulations set by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Keigley, sheriff of Platt County, Wyo., where Wyoming Premium Farms is located, said Wednesday that his detectives have turned over all the information they have, including the Humane Society video, to investigators with the Wyoming Livestock Board.

Keigley said he did not know how long the investigation will take, but when the Livestock Board investigators are finished, their report will turned over to the Platt County prosecutor, who will decide whether charges should be filed.

Also Wednesday, the Animal Care Review Panel, a group of animal well-being experts, reviewed the video and one of the panelists, Candace Croney, an associate professor of animal sciences at Purdue, described what she saw as “disturbing.”

“This video was an incredibly disturbing, saddening and horrific example of the worst kind of handling,” she said.

The panel was created by the Kansas City, Mo. -based Center for Food Integrity to examine undercover video taken inside animal processing facilities and provide credible feedback for retailers, and companies in the food industry.

Officials at Wyoming Premium Farms did not immediately return calls to the operation Tuesday and Wednesday.