By Tom Collins
ARTHUR — A Western Ontario pig farm will not be charged after an undercover video was released showing employees thumping, kicking and using an electric prod on the farm’s animals.
Both OMAFRA and the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA) have completed their investigations into Crimson Lane Farms at Arthur in Wellington County. The OSPCA did have a list of corrective actions and has been working with the farm on those actions since August. The OSPCA would not say what those corrective actions were.
The video was released by Last Chance for Animals, a Los Angeles-based animal rights group opposed to using animals for food and clothing production, scientific experiment and education. The undercover employee recorded the video from December, 2015 to February, 2016. CTV News Kitchener aired the story in early November in a three-part series.
The second-generation farrow-to-wean farm was switching from stalls to group housing — part of the pig code requirements by 2024 — at the time the video was shot. The farm has 1,600 sows and delivers 900 piglets a week.
Ontario Pork veterinarian Mike DeGroot went with the OSPCA to the farm to investigate. He said that what he saw on the farm was completely different from what the video showed.
“The video does not show what the farm is really like from my two visits to the farm,” DeGroot told Farmers Forum. “Some of the images are disturbing. But when you go and do a walkthrough of the barn, it’s like night and day.”
One part of the video showed an employee using an electric prod twice to get a pig to move. DeGroot said electric prods should be used only as a last resort, and other methods, such as pig boards and paddles, should be tried first.
“They shouldn’t be used routinely and ideally, not at all,” he said. “They are allowed as a last resort on a farm. Even then, you don’t want to use it excessively. It would be one prod to get it to move.”
The video also showed pigs with large rectal prolapse, which is when the rectum pushes out from the body. The video voiceover said the prolapses were there for days and kept growing. DeGroot said a prolapse is something that should be taken care of right away. When the procedure to fix the prolapse is finished, the extra tissue is tied off and eventually falls off, which is what is seen in the video. In some cases it may be better to cut off the extra tissue, DeGroot said.
The video also showed thumping, called blunt force trauma in the official code of practice, which involves slamming the top of the head of a three-week-or-younger dying or severely ill piglet onto a hard, flat surface. Blunt force trauma could also involve a firm blow with an object to the head. Both are acceptable industry practices.
When done properly, loss of consciousness is immediate. The piglet’s body becomes extremely tense after the initial blow, followed by gradual relaxation. That stage is followed by involuntary kicking and death. If there’s doubt that the piglet is dead, the blow can be repeated. If a second blow is necessary, Ontario Pork recommends using a hard object. However, the video showed an employee improperly thumping and the piglet wiggling on the ground.
“Obviously you want to do it properly,” said Ontario Pork communications manager Mary Jane Quinn. “You don’t want to keep doing it.”
Crimson Lane Farms owner Ed Bosman told CTV News Kitchener that he takes full responsibility for the his employees failing to properly follow the code of practice.
The video was originally given to CBC, but the network decided not to run the story.
“We felt this was a compelling look inside farming with material from both the animal rights group and the farmer,” CTV Kitchener news director Kristin Weaver told Farmers Forum. “And because we had both parties participating, we felt it was a unique view for our viewers. We do think this story had a great deal of value for our viewers.”