Criminal Probe Sought: Workers Ignored Conscious Pig Whose Throat Was Cut

For Immediate Release:
August 17, 2020

David Perle 202-483-7382

Wright County, Iowa

PETA has obtained a U.S. Department of Agriculture report revealing a recent violation of law at Prestage Foods of Iowa outside Eagle Grove. In response, we sent a letter this morning calling on Wright County Attorney Eric Simonson to review the matter and, as appropriate, file criminal cruelty-to-animals charges against the facility and the workers who apparently ignored a federal inspector’s repeated requests on July 28 that they stun a conscious pig who was kicking and struggling after his or her throat had been cut while hoisted in the air. After the inspector stopped the slaughter line and went to find someone to stun the pig, the animal was apparently put through a machine that scraped off his or her hair while still conscious.

“This disturbing report shows that this animal experienced a prolonged, agonizing death at Prestage Foods of Iowa,” says PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch. “PETA is calling for a criminal investigation on behalf of the pig who suffered at this facility and urging all compassionate members of the public who are disturbed by this cruelty to go vegan and help prevent more animals from suffering in slaughterhouses.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to eat”—opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview. The group notes that pigs, sheep, cattle, chickens, and other animals feel pain and fear and value their lives, just as humans do, and that the only way to help prevent them from suffering in slaughterhouses is not to eat them.

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PETA’s letter to Simonson follows.

August 17, 2020

The Honorable Eric Simonson

Wright County Attorney

Dear Mr. Simonson,

I hope this letter finds you well. I would like to request that your office (and the proper local law enforcement agency, as you deem appropriate) investigate and file suitable criminal charges against Prestage Foods of Iowa and the worker(s) responsible for allowing a hoisted pig whose throat had been cut to regain consciousness and apparently be conveyed through a device that scraped off the pig’s hair on July 28 at its slaughterhouse located at 3183 Hwy. 17 outside of Eagle Grove. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) documented the incident in the attached report, which states the following:

“IPP [FSIS Inspection Program Personnel] noticed a market hog kicking at the distant end of the bleed chain prior to … where the line goes into … the polisher. The hog had passed through the carbon dioxide stunner, was past the stick station for bleeding and had not been captive bolt stunned. IPP observed the hog repeatedly blinking its eyes …. The eyes were focused on IPP …. The hog was rhythmically breathing and was moving all four legs … with controlled kicking and swimming movements. The hog was lifting its head up towards its back/spine in a controlled manner and arching its back, as in a righting reflex. As the conscious hog was approaching the polisher, IPP repeatedly called and motioned for the employee performing the stick to stop the line and get the captive bolt gun, since that is where the bleed chain line stop button is located. The employee did not respond to the request and since the hog was reaching the polisher, IPP immediately and quickly proceeded to the stick station and stopped the line. IPP then requested that the hog be properly stunned. … [T]he hog … continued to move its legs in a controlled manner, was breathing, and was still blinking its eyes. Some time passed and when no one arrived to stun the hog IPP headed towards the barn. IPP saw [redacted] and informed him of the conscious hog on the bleed chain line. He then effectively rendered the hog unconscious with the hand-held captive bolt device. When the hog was properly stunned, it was located between the polisher and the scald tank.”1

This conduct appears to violate Iowa Code § 717.2(1)(c). Importantly, FSIS action does not preempt criminal liability under state law for slaughterhouse workers who perpetrate acts of cruelty to animals.2

Please let us know what we might do to assist you. Thank you for your consideration and for the difficult work that you do.


Colin Henstock

Assistant Manager of Investigations

1FSIS District 25 Manager Dr. Dawn Sprouls, Notice of Suspension, Prestage Foods of Iowa (Jul. 29, 2020)

2See Nat’l. Meat Assoc. v. Harris, 132 S. Ct. 965, 974 n.10 (2012) (“. . . States may exact civil or criminal penalties for animal cruelty or other conduct that also violates the [Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA)]. See [21 U.S.C.] §678; cf. Bates v. Dow Agrosciences, LLC, 544 U.S. 431, 447 (2005) (holding that a preemption clause barring state laws ‘in addition to or different’ from a federal Act does not interfere with an ‘equivalent’ state provision). Although the FMIA preempts much state law involving slaughterhouses, it thus leaves some room for the States to regulate.”).

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