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Serving: IA

Livestock farmers must be vigilant

Rod Swoboda outisde of a hog facility
BE WATCHFUL: Livestock farmers must be vigilant, in monitoring the security of farms for the safety of people and livestock.
Animal rights group is targeting Iowa pig farmers who are depopulating herds.

The Coalition for Iowa’s Farmers is warning Iowa pork producers to be on the lookout for animal welfare activists taking videos of hogs being euthanized on farms.

Recent activities by the animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere have focused on Iowa, and in particular, Iowa’s pork industry. DXE is paying special attention to Iowa and the current circumstances involving the depopulation of hogs. Some producers are euthanizing market-ready hogs they are unable to send to Midwest packing plants that have slowed or halted production. The coronavirus is causing an increasing number of workers at meat processing facilities to become ill, creating a labor shortage in the meat processing industry.

“DXE has members on the ground in Iowa, and all farms and processing plants should be on high alert as they may be targeted in an attempt to capture video footage and cause a disruption to normal business activity,” said Brian Waddingham, executive director of CSIF. “We are reminding livestock farmers it is important to be vigilant in monitoring the security of your farm at all times, for the safety of yourself, your family, your employees and the livestock and poultry in your care.”

Protect farm, livestock

“Most people think they will never be the target, but no one can assume they are safe,” Waddingham said. “There are preventative measures you can take to protect your farm and your livestock.

“Iowa is a strong agriculture state, and although most people are likely to see through DXE’s efforts, it’s important to spread the message that this is an extreme animal rights group that is taking advantage of a heart-wrenching, crisis situation some livestock farmers are faced with. DXE is trying to advance their own agenda — which is to eliminate animal agriculture.”

If you find a suspicious vehicle near your farm or discover criminals on your property, do not try to apprehend them. Contact local law enforcement, he advises. For additional suggestions on preventive measures you can take to reduce your risk, as well as suggestions of what to do if you are the victim of a criminal act, visit the CSIF website.

Group: Producer ‘roasted pigs alive’

DXE is a California animal rights group. Last week they said an Iowa pork producer “roasted pigs alive” when the producer euthanized thousands of hogs. Releasing video footage DXE described the pigs as “shrieking in agony” after Iowa Select Farms shut down the ventilation in one of its confinement facilities in Grundy County to euthanize the hogs.

Jeff Hansen, CEO of Iowa Select, a large pork producer, said his company “exhausted every possible option from finding more barn space to donating pork to food banks and employees,” before deciding to euthanize the animals. He said DXE “illegally infiltrated our facility and installed cameras to record videos of the euthanasia process and our team members.” DXE’s actions “only reinforce the hurt felt by our employees.”

The Iowa Department of Agriculture estimates 600,000 pigs in total could end up being destroyed as the market-ready animals are backing up on farms and can’t find a market. Iowa, the nation’s largest pork producer, raises 50 million hogs a year.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig called the activists’ tactics “disgusting.”

“No producer wants to be faced with this decision. It goes against everything they stand for and do on a daily basis, caring for animals and raising them to feed families.” Naig was asked about the video during a press conference with Gov. Kim Reynolds, a daily update on the coronavirus impact on Iowa. Naig said DXE “has a clear agenda and is kicking our farmers when they are down.”

Producers work with vets

Naig pointed out that the hog producers are working with veterinarians who follow national guidelines when euthanizing animals.

Shutting down a confinement building’s ventilation raises the temperature of the hogs and causes them to die of hyperthermia, an acceptable form of euthanasia in constrained circumstances. The American Association of Swine Veterinarians said this is an acceptable method of euthanasia in “constrained circumstances.” The organization’s board of directors recently identified COVID-19 meatpacking disruption as one of those situations. But the board said priority should be given to other preferred methods, including shooting, electrocution, gassing with carbon dioxide and using manual blunt force, which is used primarily on small pigs.

Iowa State University Extension swine veterinarian Chris Rademacher said shutting down ventilation is probably the best method to euthanize a large number of pigs. It’s safer for farmers than shooting, electrocuting or using other preferred methods that are more appropriate options for euthanizing a small number of animals.

He said mass depopulation takes less of an emotional toll on farmers. “I can’t tell you how many producers get choked up talking about euthanizing animals,” Rademacher said.

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