Iowa’s largest pork producer has allegedly euthanized thousands of pigs by steaming them to death in a mass-extermination after meat processing plants shuttered amid the coronavirus pandemic.
An investigation by animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere, or DxE, into Iowa Select Farms revealed footage of what appeared to show the brutal slaying of thousands of pigs by ‘ventilation shutdown,’ of VSD.
Ventilation shutdown is a mass-extermination method where pigs are hoarded inside a barn, the airways sealed shut and scalding steam is pumped inside overnight.
The heat will increasingly intensify as the pigs are essentially boiled to death as they suffocate and suffer hours of unbearable cruelty.
According to a whistleblower at Iowa Select Farms, the process helps the facility become ‘depopulated’ as livestock is backlogged at meat factories.
Footage from hidden cameras obtained by The Intercept and DxE shows thousands of pigs gathering in an Iowa Select Farms facility in Grundy County to undergo ventilation shutdown.
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT
Footage obtained by Direct Action Everywhere appears to show thousands of pigs undergoing ‘ventilation shutdown’ at Iowa Select Farms
Temperatures inside the barn reportedly surpassed 140 degrees Fahrenheit and the pigs’ tortured squeals can be heard as they were roasted.
Most of the pigs died during the ventilation shutdown, but some managed to stay alive throughout the process. Iowa Select Farms staffers are seen killing surviving pigs with a bolt gun shot to the forehead.
The dead bodies are then cleared away by bulldozers and mechanical equipment.
The investigation into Iowa Select Farms was prompted by a whistleblower who told The Intercept that the company first used the ventilation shutdown method in April.
Temperatures inside the barn reportedly surpassed 140 degrees Fahrenheit during the process
WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES Staffers at Iowa Select Farms reportedly used a bolt gun to kill any surviving pigs the next day (pictured)
Iowa Select Farms reportedly first experimented on a small group of pigs by simply shutting off the airways and increasing the temperature.
After this failed, the company then reportedly added steam to the method as a way to raise barn temperature to deadly levels.
‘They shut the pit pans off, shut the ventilation fans off, and heat up the building. That’s what the plan is. It’s horrific as it is. It was first used on test cull sows: those were first given the VSD treatment,’ the whistleblower said.
‘The first day they shut off all the fans and turned the heat up and the hottest they could get the building was 120 degrees.
‘After four to five hours, none of the animals were dead. There was an attempt to induce steam into the building, along with the heat and the ventilation shutdown, and that is how they ultimately perfected their VSD operation.
‘Every time they’ve been euthanizing the animals, it’s been a test in a sense. Piglets were killed off in a barn with gas generators.’
The meat packing industry, like so many others, have been dealt a massive blow as the economy stuttered during the coronavirus outbreak.
Even with food lines growing due to increased unemployment across the United States, factory farms have begun mass-exterminating their animals.
A breakdown in the commercial supply chain, as well as several slaughterhouses closing after COVID-19 outbreaks ravaged poorly protected staffers, resulted in an excess of now ‘worthless’ livestock.
Options like donating to food insecure Americans or saving the animals until demand peaked again were reportedly bypassed by many farm factories, including Iowa Select Farms, to maximize profits.
Some factory farms are now exterminating their livestock in vast numbers to avoid paying the cost to keep them alive.
Pictured: Photos from Direct Action Everywhere showing water pumps used to push steam inside the barn
Pictured: Photos from Direct Action Everywhere showing two large interior tubes used to filter steam
Pictured: Photos from Direct Action Everywhere showing gas meters outside the barn.
Usually, commercial animal killings take place at slaughterhouses after being shipped over from factory farms, but with so many closures the supply chain has deviated from normal practice.
Officials in Iowa warned on April 27 that some 700,000 pigs could be killed as a result.
‘Given severe processing capacity constraints, pigs are backing up on farms with nowhere to go, resulting in overcrowding and animal welfare issues,’ the statement said.
‘At current capacity levels, there are 700,000 pigs across the nation that cannot be processed each week and must be humanely euthanized.’
But according to the whistleblower, Iowa Select Farms’ ventilation shutdown method has been anything by humane.
The ventilation shutdown method is meant to kill the majority of pigs, while staffers are to ensure there is 100 per cent mortality, but this is not always the case.
After the pigs are killed, they’re reportedly transported by bulldozer and other mechanical tools out of the barn
The Intercept reports that the sheer number of pigs being killed at once inside the barn is so large that standard methods to confirm death, like pulse-checking, are not performed.
This means that some pigs can survive the ventilation shutdown, avoid death by the bolt gun and still be buried alive or crushed by bulldozers meant to lug them away.
Additionally, the American Association of Swine Veterinarian also described how horrific ventilation shutdown is to animals.
‘When ventilation systems fail, “pigs may suffer distress or death by what is commonly called ‘suffocation’ implying lack of oxygen or excessive CO2″,’ it read.
‘In realistic terms, death may result from any combination of excessive temperature, CO2, or toxic gases from slurry or manure below the barn.
‘Numerous variables may make the time to death of 100% of animals in the barn subject to a range of times.
‘The age and size of the barn; the insulation of the barn; the ventilation system; the ability to adequately seal fans, louvres, doors, and windows; and the number and size of animals in the barn can make achieving temperature goals problematic.’
Iowa Select Farms reportedly did not initially respond to claims about the mass-extermination, but later released a series of statements after learning of DxE’s investigation.
‘The thought of euthanizing entire herds is devastating. Sadly, Iowa Select has been forced to make this heartbreaking decision for some of its herd,’ a company spokesperson said in an industry newsletter.
WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES Pictured: the bodies of dead pigs after they were reportedly killed by ventilation shutdown this month, according to Direct Action Everywhere
In another statement, Iowa Select Farms ‘announced in a statement that they have been forced to euthanize some of its herd.’
‘It’s been hard on us to come to those decisions, said Pete Thomas, DVM at Iowa Select Farms, focusing the grief on company executives instead of the slaughtered pigs.
The whistleblower, who chose to stay anonymous over fears of retaliation, said a ‘massive increase’ in pig production in 2019 led the already cramped quarters for pigs to become smaller.
Even after spending the majority of their life around farms, the whistleblower couldn’t stomach that alleged mistreatment happening at Iowa Select Farms.
‘It’s immoral, hard to see every single day,’ they said.
‘I wasn’t becoming numb to it. It was affecting me more and more every day: feeling the compassion and empathy for these animals that we were working with every day, then beginning to question,’ the ethics of industrial practices.
The whistleblower began their own research into regulatory requirements after finding that the pigs were being stored in ways that appeared ‘double what is permitted’ by normal standards.
They decided to reach out to DxE instead of local government after deciding little would actually be done.
In the past, the agricultural industry used its economic influence to impact political parties and laws to shelter themselves from public scrutinty.
The industry was successful in passing former ‘AG-GAG’ laws that was designed to punish transparency meant to show the true inner-workings of the agricultural trade.
The whistleblower, whose spent their entire life around farms and farm animals, said the alleged mistreatment was affecting them ‘more and more every day’
WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES The whistleblower called the actions ‘immoral’ and admitted its ‘hard to see every single day’
The whistleblowers concerns escalated as the pandemic caused ‘massive backups’ and they soon suspected that ‘massive kill-offs of healthy pigs’ were being considered by Iowa Select Farms.
Pigs, according to the whistleblower, ‘are now being killed for no reason.’
‘The weight of that was pretty heavy, to be honest,’ they added.
Over several months, The Intercept repots the whistleblower noticed the company implementing new protocols, transportation schedules for pigs, reviewing documents for new procedures and having talks of ventilation shutdowns.
This is what convinced the whistleblower that the mass killing of health pigs was happening ‘very much sooner rather than later.’
Iowa Select Farms advertises itself as animal friendly and ethically sound ‘with homegrown Iowa values’ on its website.
‘We believe in doing the right thing every day, operating with character and integrity and being stewards of our resources.’
The company’s blue collar branding comes at odds with its overwhelming influence as the fourth-largest pork producer in the US. It sells more than five million hogs annually to Tyson Foods and the Brazilian firm JBS.
Pictured:Dozens of pigs raised by Craig Anderson and family, are loaded to be trucked to meat packing facilities in Centerville, South Dakota, as farm factories shut down
In an effort to explain the newly released footage, Iowa Select Farms claimed in a newsletter that ‘veterinarians and production well-being professionals are overseeing the process to ensure accordance with the American Association of Swine Veterinarians and American Veterinary Medical Association.’
The Intercept points out that that ‘veterinarians’ used to in this instance may have their own stake in the game as they’re most likely dependent upon these factory farms.
The American Association of Swine Veterinarians in Iowa reportedly receives financial support from corporations with ties to the industrial agriculture community.
On May 19 – the same day it was revealed DxE obtained footage of Iowa Select Farms’ reported ventilation shutdown – they released a statement on swine procedures during the pandemic.
‘If depopulation must be considered, veterinarians should reference the American Veterinary Medical Association’s Guidelines for the Depopulation of Animals,’ they wrote.
The American Veterinary Medical Association’s Guidelines manual divides ‘depopulation’ methods into ‘preferred’ and ones that are only ‘Permitted in Constrained Circumstances.’
Ventilation shutdown falls under ‘Permitted in Constrained Circumstances.’
The AASV’s May 19 statement added that: ‘priority should be given to those methods classified as ‘Preferred’ but the circumstances surrounding the Covid-19 processing disruption may require the use of methods classified as ‘Permitted in Constrained Circumstances.’
The AASV effectively said ventilation shutdowns could be justified due to the unexpected impact of the coronavirus on the same day allegations against Iowa Select Farms were unveiled.
But reports from The Intercept and testimonial from the whistleblower reportedly revealed that Iowa Select Farms did not fully comply with guidelines set forth by the American Veterinary Medical Association Guidelines.
Pictured: The dead bodies of pigs are placed into trucks by tractors and workers outside the facility
The manual said ‘depopulation methods’ should ‘result in rapid loss of consciousness and the associated loss of brain function.’
‘Physical methods must be skillfully executed to ensure a quick and humane death because failure to do so can cause significant stress, distress, and pain.’
The uncovered footage appeared to be contrary to these guidelines as some pigs were killed by staffers several hours after the process began.
As of Friday, Direct Action Everywhere filed a criminal livestock neglect complaint with the Grundy County Sheriff’s Office.
Matt Johnson, the group’s leader, said in a statement: ‘An element of good that has emerged from the ravages of COVID-19, and of this investigation, is that the longstanding systemic abuses of animal agriculture have been openly exposed for the world to see.’
DailyMail.com has reached out to Iowa Select Farms for further comment.