Animal activists infiltrated a facility on Tuesday used by Iowa Select Farms and proceeded to taunt, harass and videotape their team members, says Jen Sorenson, director of communications for Iowa Select Farms.
“Not surprisingly, animal activists are trying to exploit this current challenge in agriculture to advance their own agenda,” Sorenson says. “It is disappointing that these individuals would try to use what is a profoundly difficult time to undermine the mission of every farmer.”
The significant number of processing plants temporarily shutting down or reducing their capacity due to employees who have tested positive for COVID-19 has created a backlog of hundreds of thousands of pigs staying on farms.
Iowa Select farms announced in a statement on Wednesday that they have been forced to euthanize some of its herd.
“We’ve not been able to market the number of pigs we wanted to for a while now. We knew it was coming and we had to make the tough decisions. It’s been hard on us to come to those decisions,” says Pete Thomas, DVM at Iowa Select Farms.
Thomas says the activists appeared on site after they had been euthanizing pigs on Tuesday. The activists hurled insults and rhetorical questions while rolling footage. They also showed back up later in the day and broke into a building on Wednesday morning.
“As we got further into it, we found that they had planted a couple cameras inside the barn. It’s very unfortunate as we go through these times that they would take this opportunity to prey on us at our most vulnerable time,” Thomas says.
This could happen to other pig farmers, Thomas says. Watch for signs of activity on your farm. Don’t become too focused on the emotions of what you are dealing with that you miss the signs of activist activity.
“For me personally, it’s been a tough time,” Thomas says. “As producers, we really want to do what is best for the pigs. We take pride in what we do – providing for these animals and feeding the nation.”
From being as dynamic as possible to utilize space, alter nutrition to slow down growth, or working with smaller local meat processors and lockers to process pigs and donating through community food pantries and employees, etc., Thomas says they have explored all measures to avoid euthanasia.
“But we have exhausted our options,” he says. “We really tried to do everything we could to utilize these animals for food and utilize all of our resources to be able to house them.”
Veterinarians like Thomas and production well-being professionals have been overseeing the euthanasia process to ensure accordance with the American Association of Swine Veterinarians and American Veterinary Medical Association.
“The thought of euthanizing pigs is devastating since a farmer is dedicated to feeding families around the world,” Sorenson says. “This is sad and difficult work. Our team members grieve as they implement our plan. Yet, given the devastating effects of COVID-19 on those who work in food supply, there are few options.”
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