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Life at Smithfield: An Eyewitness Account

As told by Charles G. Bohlinger IV, former employee

When the temp agency first sent me to Smithfield, I was excited that I’d finally found a job that I could do that wouldn’t hurt my already injured back. It was an awesome opportunity for a high school grad just out of the military and in need of money. But when I took my first trip to Smithfield, the first thing I noticed was the horrible smell—and it wasn’t just at the plant. The smell started miles away. It wasn’t until I worked there a while that I actually saw the source of it all.

I showed up for the night shift and was told that my job would be easy and require a few simple tasks. They showed me the ropes, and pretty soon, I was on my own—sitting in the little wooden security shack all night, signing trucks in and out. The trucks, packed with panicked pigs who were squealing with all of their might, started bothering me, but I tried to block it all out of my head. I had a job to do: to keep people who weren’t supposed to be there out, and I took my job seriously.

I remember the sick laughter of those who had been there for a long time. They’d make comments on how futile the pigs’ efforts were. I hated to see the pigs struggle and squeal in their tightly packed mobile cells or see their sad eyes peek out through the tiny openings. Though it was nighttime, the heat was unbearable that summer, and nothing was done to cool them off.

I eventually asked about the black smoke that appeared to be the source of one of the foulest smells. Smugly, a worker responded, “That is where the dead pigs go.” I instantly recalled a horrifying scene from the movie Schindler’s List.

Later, I jumped at the opportunity of getting out of that hot little shack and checking out the perimeter. If only I had known how that would end up. I drove around a corner and almost hit a gray mass that was on the ground. I realized that it was a dead pig who had been left there in the road, and it wouldn’t be the only thing I’d find before my career was over at Smithfield. In all, I couldn’t count how many ears, feet, or other body parts I found in different places.

It wasn’t until later that I found out how they treated animals who were still living. After pigs arrive on the truck, they’re kicked out into small holding chambers. Dead pigs are thrown aside and later transported to the largest pile of death you could imagine. Unlucky pigs who happen to survive transport are shooed and sometimes cattle-prodded up a ramp to an inside room. These rooms are the hottest that you will ever experience—and the most grotesque.

Here, pigs are shocked with a stun gun and thrown onto a conveyor belt, where their legs and feet are tied and their necks are broken in a bizarre machine. Not even a second later, they’re hung upside-down on a meat hook and sliced open. Their guts are scooped out and thrown into a trash can, which ends up next door to be processed as “other” pig products. The swinging bodies are still twitching as they continue on to be cut up into smaller pieces. Blood and guts are everywhere.

The heat that summer, combined with the countless gutted animals, made this whole scene unimaginable. The smell haunts me, and I still have nightmares. Two years later as I write this, I’m shaking, pale, and sick to my stomach. How can such barbaric behavior be all right? I remember how employees were reprimanded or fired because they couldn’t work as fast as others could in this killing spree. It was obvious that profit was the only thing that mattered to Smithfield.

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  • Tamra says:

    Thank you PETA for your hard work and tireless efforts to educate us on what goes on behind the scenes. I became vegetarian 7 months ago, and am becoming vegan. The rest of my family eats meat and it breaks my heart. This article will be helpful in educating them. I believe the more truth people know, the better decision they make. Most people think that animals are happily frolicking on green pastures with blue skies and a red barn with fresh hay to sleep on. Everyone, share what you know and help make a difference.

  • Michael Wentz says:

    I will be praying and fasting for God to change the hearts of those who abuse these and other factory-farm animals.
    I am vegan. But I am preparing my poster to carry the message to the street: “Walmart buys pork from pig abusers.” They buy not only Smithfield but from Christiansen which use gestation crates.

  • Kathy says:

    First do not buy Smithfield products. Also, read the book-”THE MEAT YOU EAT” by Ken Midkiff. It’s about agribusiness, how animals are treated like machines and ‘units of production.’, and about slaughterhouses. I’m vegetarian and what I have read so far has angered me. The author says to support local farms not the big corporations or, meat barons, that sell ‘death’ in the supermarket. These corporations care little about the sadistic suffering. They just want the money. It’s up to us not to give it to them.

  • asianlady says:

    WHERE ARE THE USDA INSPECTORS? ONCE AGAIN THESE SUPPOSEDLY GOVERNMENT EMPLOYESS PAID THRU TAX PAYORS MONEY ARE IGNORING ALL THESE HEALTH HAZARD TO HUMANS AND HORRIFIC TREATMENT OF FARM ANIMALS WHO GIVE US FOOD, WORK FOR THESE BUMS AND MONEY FOR THE GREEDY OWNERS. WHERE ARE THEY? USDA INSPECTORS ARE GOVERNMENT WORKERS PAID BY TAX PAYORS’ MONEY. THESE INCOMPETENT USDA INSPECTORS CHOOSE TO CLOSE THEIR EYES AND WALK AWAY FROM THEIR DUTIES. THEY HAVE TO BE FIRED AND REPLACED BY WORKERS WHO CAN DO THEIR JOBS AND NOT LET ANIMAL RIGHTS ACTIVIST TO DO THEIR JOB FOR THEM.

  • Donni De-Ville says:

    I read everything about Smithfield. Why have they not been closed down? It is abominably wrong to hurt animals like this, and what for? Dirty money! It is NOT worth the suffering these pigs go through, just for people to EAT them! Bad enough if they had been treated kindly, but after these pigs have been so tortured, it is worse! Meat eaters, either do not care about the suffering they are causing, they are indifferent, or they are similar to the sadists who ‘work’ in these barbaric slaughter houses.
    The least that can be done (IF these pigs, who are very intelligent) is for them ALL to be treated humanely. I am going to make Smithfield a priority and will be doing all I can to prevent any more sadistic treatment of pigs, large and small. You could be shut down if you do not change your ways drastically. I abhor what you stand for, and will let as many people as I can know about your ‘procedures.’

  • Karlene says:

    As I read this My wonderful 6 year old cat Pius was sitting by my lap, She can tell that My soul was tortured as I continued to read this well written yet horriffic accounting. She (Pius) crawled right up to my face and nudged my cheek with her forhead as she meowed her version of I love you humom (me). She feels my strong emotions of empathy for the inhumane way we humans mistreat animals of all kinds. Thank you so much for your story. It is people like you that have the voice to speak of these immoral actions.

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