Pigs Repeatedly Shot in the Head; PETA Seeks Federal Probe

For Immediate Release:
September 8, 2022

Contact:
David Perle 202-483-7382

Hettinger County, N.D. – PETA has obtained recent U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports revealing the latest in a long history of violations of federal law at South 40 Farms near Mott, in which pigs cried out and remained conscious after being shot in the head on August 19, August 11, and June 17. In response, the group sent a letter today to Interim U.S. Attorney for the District of North Dakota Jennifer Klemetsrud Puhl calling on her to review these and other violations of the Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act and, as appropriate, file criminal charges against the facility and the workers responsible.

“These disturbing eyewitness reports show that these pigs endured prolonged, agonizing deaths at South 40 Farms,” says PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch. “PETA is calling for a federal investigation on behalf of these animals and is urging everyone to help prevent more animals from suffering in slaughterhouses by going vegan.”

Other recent violations at South 40 Farms include an incident on April 20 in which a steer remained conscious and tried to sit up after a worker shot him at least twice in the head and two incidents in 2021, on October 7 and April 30, in which cows remained standing after workers shot them in the head. Cows have also been left without water on at least two occasions this year.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to eat” and which opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview—points out that pigs, cows, sheep, chickens, and other animals feel pain and fear and value their lives, just as humans do. The group is asking the interim U.S. attorney to intervene because the USDA hasn’t initiated the criminal prosecution of any inspected slaughterhouses for acts of abuse like those committed at South 40 Farms since at least 2007.

For more information on PETA’s investigative newsgathering and reporting, visit PETA.org or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

PETA’s letter to Puhl follows.

September 8, 2022

The Honorable Jennifer Klemetsrud Puhl
Interim U.S. Attorney
District of North Dakota

Via e-mail: [email protected]

Dear Ms. Puhl:

I hope this letter finds you well. I’m writing to request that your office investigate and file appropriate criminal charges against South 40 Farms LLC and its workers responsible for repeated violations of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, which requires that animals be “rendered insensible to pain by a single blow … or other means that is rapid and effective, before being shackled, hoisted … or cut.”1 At the company’s slaughterhouse, located at 9214 Hwy. 21 in Hettinger County, its staff repeatedly shot at least six pigs and cows in the head, causing the severely wounded animals to cry out; deprived animals of water; and more, as documented in the attached reports by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

According to the reports, federal officials documented the following:

  • June 17, August 11, and August 19, 2022: “Humane handling noncompliance has occurred on each of the last three consecutive swine slaughter days: June 17, 2022, August 11, 2022, and August 19, 2022. … On June 17, 2022 … [t]he establishment was employing a hand-held captive bolt (HHCB) device to do the stunning. After the initial stunning attempt, IPP [Inspection Program Personnel] noted the animal was conscious. The animal was standing on [their] front feet, with the hindquarters on the floor of the restrainer. The animal vocalized, had controlled head movements, and was looking around tracking movement, while sitting upright in the restrainer. The employee retrieved the second HHCB. A second stun was applied. The second stun rendered the animal unconscious. … On August 11, 2022 … while in the next room IPP heard the .22 pistol discharge followed by a loud vocalization from the animal. Upon immediate investigation, IPP saw that the animal was conscious. The market swine was loudly vocalizing with repetition and having controlled movement within the restricted area in the loading chute leading up to the restrainer. The second shot was effective at stunning the swine. … On August 19, 2022 … IPP heard the .22 pistol discharge followed by a loud vocalization from the conscious animal. The market swine was loudly vocalizing with repetition. The second stun was implemented. IPP heard animal movement but as IPP was following safety protocols for firearm usage IPP was unable to see the animal. A third stun was implemented and upon return to the stunning area IPP confirmed that the animal was unconscious.”2
  • April 20, 2022: “IPP observed a Longhorn steer and heifer moved into a pen …. The inspector left the area per firearm safety protocols. Upon hearing the firearm discharge, IPP immediately returned to an area where he could visually inspect the animal (approximately 30 feet away) and observed the plant employee again aiming the .22 standard caliber firearm, as both the heifer and the steer were both on their feet. The animals did not vocalize. [Redacted] stepped back to safety and again heard the firearm discharge. IPP … observed the plant employee was again aiming the same .22 standard caliber firearm to shoot, as both the heifer and the steer were on their feet. The animals did not vocalize. IPP stepped back to safety and heard a third shot fired. IPP immediately returned to the same area. The steer was observed on the ground, on [his] side, with all four limbs rigidly extended. The heifer was still standing and observed excitedly moving around the pen. The establishment employees then moved the heifer to an adjacent pen. While moving the heifer IPP observed that the steer lost [his] rigidity and there was controlled lifting of [his] head as [he] attempted to sit up by rocking on [his] side. The plant employee noticed this right away and stated that he was going to apply another shot while the steer was on the ground. IPP went to safety again and the firearm was heard discharging a fourth time. IPP immediately returned to the area and upon closer examination of the steer he confirmed that the animal was unconscious. Blood was present from three holes in the skull of the animal.”3
  • March 28, 2022: “[IPP] was conducting a humane handling verification on 15 head of [cows] that were received the day before, [IPP] noticed that they did not have access to any open water (HATS Category III—Water and Feed Availability). As [IPP] investigated further, [IPP] saw that 1 of the 3, 25-gallon watering tanks was empty and that the other 2 were about 1/3 of the way full with about an ½ inch layer of solid ice covering the entire surface of the water in the tank. The water tanks and [cows] were located in pen #1 which is an outdoor pen.”4
  • March 7, 2022: “[A]t approximately 7:00am, as [IPP] was conducting a humane handling verification task on a load of [cows who] were received the day before, I observed that 7 head of [cows] did not have any accessible water (HATS Category III—Water and Feed Availability). The [cows] were located in holding pen #1 which is an outdoor pen. The water tank in the pen has a 25-gallon capacity, with a water heater to combat the buildup of ice. The water tank was empty except for approximately 2–3 inches of ice built up around the water heater in the bottom of the water tank.”5
  • December 7, 2021: “A wire panel attached to a metal gate had a broken wire protruding from the panel with a large amount of hair presumably from the cattle attached to it. Since the broken and protruding wire may cause injury or pain to the animals, this is a noncompliance ….”6
  • October 7, 2021: “The [cow] was put into the restrainer and the head catch. The first stun attempt with the handheld captive bolt device (HHCB) did not render the animal immediately unconscious. The animal vocalized and remained standing. The stunning operator immediately grabbed another HHCB, that was already loaded, and a second stun attempt was made but did not render the animal unconscious. IPP observed blinking of the eyes and the animal remained standing. A third stun attempt was again immediately performed after reloading the HHCB that rendered the animal unconscious and [she] dropped to the floor.”7
  • April 30, 2021: “The establishment personnel using the hand-held captive bolt attempted to stun the [cow] without any restraint being instituted. On the first attempt with the hand-held captive bolt device it made a hole/mark on the hide of the animal and the animal remained conscious. The animal remained standing on all four feet and had controlled movement looking around while in the restrainer. The animal did not vocalize and no blood was seen from the wound. The employee with the hand-held captive bolt device immediately reloaded the stunning device and applied the second stun. After the second … [t]he animal was verified unconscious. A third safety stun was applied with the hand-held captive bolt device. After the head was skinned it was determined that the first stun was closer to between the eyes than on the forehead (approximately six inches from the poll of the head and right of center less than 1 inch) and when a knife was inserted the depth was measured at approximately one and a half inches in depth.”8

The Federal Meat Inspection Act classifies such offenses as misdemeanors and imposes penalties of imprisonment of up to one year and/or a fine of up to $1,000.9 The fact that inhumane handling persists at this establishment makes it clear that FSIS enforcement actions alone are insufficient to deter future violations and that criminal prosecution is in the best interests of the animals killed there and the public. Given that the FSIS has not initiated a criminal prosecution of a licensed slaughterhouse for inhumane handling since at least 2007 but claims that “[i]nvestigators from [its] enforcement division and from USDA’s Inspector General … stand ready to work”10 with offices such as yours, we respectfully ask that you encourage the Enforcement and Litigation Division of the FSIS Office of Investigation, Enforcement and Audit to refer this matter to your office so that it can bring appropriate criminal charges against those responsible for the above violations.

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

Sincerely,

Colin Henstock
Assistant Manager of Investigations

1U.S. Congress, Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, 7 U.S.C. § 1902(a), (1958), https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/USCODE-2011-title7/pdf/USCODE-2011-title7-chap48-sec1902.pdf. Last accessed September 6, 2022.
2FSIS District 25 Manager Dawn Sprouls, Notice of Reinstatement of Suspension (August 20, 2022), https://www.fsis.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media_file/documents/M47494-NOROS-08202022.pdf. Last accessed September 6, 2022.
3FSIS District 25 Manager Dawn Sprouls, Notice of Suspension (April 20, 2022), https://www.fsis.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media_file/2022-04/NOS-EST47494-04202022.pdf. Last accessed September 6, 2022.
4FSIS, Noncompliance Record, South 40 Farms, LLC (March 28, 2022), https://www.peta.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/south-40-farms-noncompliance-records.pdf. Last accessed September 6, 2022.
5FSIS, Noncompliance Record, South 40 Farms, LLC (March 7, 2022), https://www.peta.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/south-40-farms-noncompliance-records.pdf. Last accessed September 6, 2022.
6FSIS, Noncompliance Record, South 40 Farms, LLC (December 7, 2021), https://www.peta.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/south-40-farms-noncompliance-records.pdf.
7FSIS District 25 Manager Dawn Sprouls, Notice of Suspension (October 8, 2021), https://www.fsis.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media_file/2021-10/47494-NOS-10082021.pdf. Last accessed September 6, 2022.
8FSIS, Noncompliance Record, South 40 Farms, LLC (April 30, 2021), https://www.peta.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/south-40-farms-noncompliance-records.pdf. Last accessed September 6, 2022.
9U.S. Congress, United States Code: Meat Inspection, 21 U.S.C. §§ 676(a), (1982), https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/USCODE-2010-title21/pdf/USCODE-2010-title21-chap12-subchapIV-sec676.pdf. Last accessed September 6, 2022.
10U.S. Department of Agriculture, FSIS, “Under Secretary for Food Safety Shares Some Insight on the Humane Handling of Livestock” (January 7, 2011), https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2011/01/7/under-secretary-food-safety-shares-some-insight-humane-handling-livestock. Last accessed September 6, 2022.

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