Nine employees, including two managers, at a factory pig farm in Wyoming have been charged with animal cruelty following an undercover investigation.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) conducted the undercover probe of Wyoming Premium Farms, a factory farming operation located in Wheatland, 83 miles (133 km) north of Cheyenne. HSUS investigators recorded workers kicking, punching and swinging pigs and piglets.
Wyoming Premium Farms reportedly supplies pork to Tyson Foods, the world's second-largest processor and marketer of chicken, beef and pork products.
WFP employees were caught kicking little piglets like soccer balls and brutally kicking mother pigs when they resisted being separated from their piglets.
"When you walk in, all of these sows are showing this volume of insanity," one HSUS investigator told the Huffington Post. "They're swaying, they're biting the bars, they're listing in front of the cages and they're docked and bloody."
Workers "would just kick a sow in the face to get her to turn around, and the sow would scream and run away," she added. "And they think it is normal, because they've just been doing it for so long, or because that's just how everybody else does it, or just because that's the easiest way."
Horrific living conditions were also documented in the undercover video. Breeding pigs are confined day and night in small metal cages known in factory farming circles as 'gestation crates,' which allow for very little movement for the animals' entire miserable lives. Although Tyson Foods and pork industry lobby groups like the National Pork Board and the National Pork Producers Council defend the use of gestation crates, nearly 50 leading food corporations, including McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, Costco, Safeway, Kroger, Oscar Mayer, Jimmy Dean and Sysco have joined animal rights advocates, veterinarians, farmers, animal scientists, consumers and others in calling for an end to the cruel confinement.
The Wyoming Livestock Board and the Platte County Attorney's Office viewed the HSUS footage and have filed animal cruelty charges against the following Wyoming Premium Farms employees: Shawn Colson (assistant manager); Bryan David Bienz Jr; Kali E. Oseland; Edward Raymond Pritekel; Richard Pritekel; Kyla Erin Adams; Steve Perry; Jarrod Barney Juarez and Patrick D. Rukavina.
If convicted, the workers could be jailed for up to two years and be fined as much as $5,000.
Despite-- or perhaps because of-- the successful work done by undercover animal cruelty investigators to hold animal abusers accountable for their crimes, the factory farming lobby and the politicians it supports have gotten the federal government to criminalize cruelty investigations as "terrorism" under the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act . The AETA, signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2006, makes it a federal terrorism offense to "damage or interfere with the operation of an animal enterprise."
Similar "ag-gag" laws, which criminalize entering animal farms under false pretenses, have been enacted by at least five states. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a right-wing corporatist lobby group that matches corporate donors with lawmakers to achieve favorable legislation, has drafted "eco-terrorism" legislation in an ongoing attempt to protect factory farming operations where animal cruelty is often a daily fact of life.