NINE former workers at Wyoming Premium Farms LLC, including an assistant manager, have been cited for animal cruelty for egregious animal abuse of pigs and sows at the farm.
The nine were caught on an undercover video filmed by an "investigator" for The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) who had taken employment at the farm last spring and secretly taped the workers' handling and treatment of the animals (Feedstuffs, May 14).
They were charged Dec. 21 after an investigation by the Platte County (Wyo.) Attorney's Office in conjunction with the Platte County Sheriff's Department and Wyoming Livestock Board.
Each former worker faces two to three counts of animal cruelty, except for assistant manager Shawn Colson, who faces seven counts. Each count carries a maximum penalty of up to $5,000 in fines or up to two years in prison or both. Court appearances are scheduled to begin Jan. 18.
All nine were dismissed several weeks ago, according to veterinarian Dr. Jason Hocker with AMVC Management Services in Audobon, Iowa, which Wyoming Premium retained to manage the farm. The farm is near Wheatland, Wyo.
The video showed workers kicking and striking pigs and swinging baby pigs by their tails and showed neglect of veterinary care for injured and sick animals. An expert panel formed by the Center for Food Integrity that reviewed the video said the workers' conduct was inexcusable.
HSUS also used the video as an opportunity to call attention to the use of individual stalls at the farm to house gestating sows, a housing practice that the activist group opposes.
HSUS said the farm supplied pigs to Tyson Foods Inc., the second-largest pork processor in the U.S., which has resisted the group's call for Tyson to require suppliers to use group pens in place of stalls.
However, Tyson said, at the time, it did not procure hogs from the farm for its processing plants but did operate a swine buying company that procured pigs from the farm to sell to other processors.
Tyson reiterated that point again last week and said its animal welfare office had inspected the farm and found that corrective steps are being taken.