Pigs Repeatedly Shot in the Head; PETA Seeks Federal Probe

For Immediate Release:
September 16, 2020

Contact:
David Perle 202-483-7382

Sioux City, Iowa – PETA has obtained U.S. Department of Agriculture reports revealing violations of federal law at Verschoor Meats in Sioux City. In response, the group sent a letter this morning calling on the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Iowa to review these violations of the Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act and, as appropriate, file criminal charges against the facility and the staff responsible for repeatedly shooting four pigs in the head, leaving them severely injured.

On August 25, a federal veterinarian saw a worker shoot a pig in the head with a captive-bolt gun, which left the animal wounded and crying out; shoot him or her a second time; and then release the pig into a pit, where the bloodied animal stood up and started walking around. Another employee retrieved a second gun and ended the pig’s suffering with a third shot. In a similar incident in September 2017, a worker repeatedly shot three pigs in the head over the course of 17 minutes—two of them cried out before the second shots finally stunned them.

“These disturbing eyewitness reports show that these pigs suffered prolonged, agonizing deaths at Verschoor Meats,” says PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch. “PETA is calling for a federal investigation on behalf of the pigs 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.

For more information, visit PETA.org.

PETA’s letter to Peter E. Deegan Jr., the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Iowa, follows.

September 16, 2020

The Honorable Peter E. Deegan Jr.

United States Attorney

Northern District of Iowa

Dear Mr. Deegan,

I hope this letter finds you well. I would like to request that your office investigate and file appropriate criminal charges against Verschoor Meats, Inc., 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 1401 Bluff Rd. in Sioux City, its staff repeatedly shot pigs in the head—leaving them crying out, wounded near their eyes and bleeding—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 veterinary staff documented the following:

  • August 25, 2020: “The District Veterinary Medical Specialist (DVMS) and Frontline Supervisor (FLS) observed … [that an] establishment employee had two small hogs within the restrainer. He … attempted to stun the second hog with a pneumatic captive bolt stunner. … [T]he first stun … hit the hog on the left side of [the] head near the eye. The hog was still conscious and vocalizing. [The animal] did not lose posture and continued to move around within the restrainer. The same employee then attempted to stun the animal again with the pneumatic captive bolt stunning device. … The employee then released the hog from the restrainer into the shackle pit. The hog that was stunned twice (two wounds and blood was observed on the animal’s head) then stood up and started walking around the shackle pit. The shackle employee noticed the conscious hog and retrieved a hand-held captive bolt device from a maintenance room behind the restrainer, approximately fifteen feet from the shackle pit. He then returned to the shackle pit and effectively stunned the hog with the hand-held captive bolt device.”2
  • September 13, 2017: “At approximately 0850 hours … [t]he stunning employee placed the pneumatic captive bolt device on one of the two hogs in the restrainer and depressed the trigger. The hog vocalized, remained standing and was conscious after this stun attempt. There was a wound present on the center of the forehead approximately mid-way above and between the eyes. The stunning employee immediately applied a second stun to the hog rendering the animal unconscious. … At approximately 0904 hours the stunning employee placed the pneumatic captive bolt device on one of the two hogs in the restrainer and depressed the trigger. The animal moved during this time and the stunning device made contact and created an approximately 1/2–1 cm diameter wound approximately 2–3 cm above the left eye. The animal moved away from the stunner, remained standing and remained conscious after the stun attempt. The stunning employee immediately applied a second stun to the hog rendering the animal unconscious. … At approximately 0907 hours the stunning employee placed the pneumatic captive bolt device on one of the two hogs in the restrainer and made a stunning attempt. The animal remained standing, vocalized and had an approximately 1/2–1 cm diameter wound approximately in the center of the forehead mid-way above and between the eyes. … The re-stun was effective at rendering the animal unconscious.”3

The Federal Meat Inspection Act classifies such offenses as misdemeanors and provides penalties of imprisonment of up to one year and/or a fine of up to $1,000.4 The persistence of inhumane handling 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 “fully supports the investigation of all those involved in alleged violations of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act” and that “[i]nvestigators from [its] enforcement division and from USDA’s Inspector General … stand ready to work”5 with offices such as yours, we respectfully ask that you collaborate with the FSIS Office of Investigation, Enforcement and Audit’s Enforcement and Litigation Division to investigate and bring appropriate criminal charges against those responsible for these violations.

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

Sincerely,

Colin Henstock

Assistant Manager of Investigations

17 U.S.C. § 1902.

2FSIS District Manager Dr. Dawn Sprouls, Notice of Suspension (Aug. 25, 2020) https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/a99df555-e62e-4cd0-a2d1-00dea165f38c/m363-nos-08252020.pdf?MOD=AJPERES.

3FSIS District Manager Dr. Dawn Sprouls, Notice of Intended Enforcement (Sept. 13, 2017) https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/d4e8c22e-05b5-4967-a987-ce03d57e5263/M363-NOIE-091317.pdf?MOD=AJPERES.

421 U.S.C. § 676.

5U.S. Department of Agriculture, FSIS, “Under Secretary for Food Safety Shares Some Insight on the Humane Handling of Livestock” (Feb. 21, 2017) https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2011/01/7/under-secretary-food-safety-shares-some-insight-humane-handling-livestock.

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