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Hidden Video Reveals Gruesome Mass-Extermination Method for Iowa Pigs Amid Pandemic Fundraiser

June 1, 2020

Video includes graphic images some readers may find disturbing.

Source The Intercept
By Glenn Greenwald

Iowa’s largest pork producer, Iowa Select Farms, has been using a cruel and excruciating method to kill thousands of pigs that have become commercially worthless due to the coronavirus pandemic. As is true for so much of what the agricultural industry does, the company’s gruesome extermination of sentient animals that are emotionally complex and intelligent has been conducted entirely out of public view.

But The Intercept, as the result of an investigation by animal rights group Direct Action Everywhere, or DxE, has obtained video footage of the procedure and the resulting carnage that occurred at one of the company’s facilities in mid-May. Additionally, a whistleblower employed by Iowa Select has provided extensive details to The Intercept about the extraordinary methods now being employed to kill pigs — agonizingly and over the course of many hours — in increasingly large numbers.

What prompted both the DxE investigation and the whistleblower to come forward is Iowa Select’s recent adoption of the mass-extermination method known as “ventilation shutdown,” or VSD. Under this method, pigs at the company’s rural Grundy County facility are being “depopulated,” using the industry’s jargon, by sealing off all airways to their barns and inserting steam into them, intensifying the heat and humidity inside and leaving them to die overnight. Most pigs — though not all — die after hours of suffering from a combination of being suffocated and roasted to death. The recordings obtained by The Intercept include audio of the piercing cries of pigs as they succumb. The recordings also show that some pigs manage to survive the ordeal — but, on the morning after, Iowa Select dispatches armed workers to enter the barn to survey the mound of pig corpses for any lingering signs of life, and then use their bolt guns to extinguish any survivors.

The whistleblower told The Intercept that when Iowa Select began using the ventilation shutdown method in late April, it first experimented on a smaller group of hogs by just shutting off the airways into their barn and turning up the heat. Other employees told similar stories to DxE investigators. After those experiments failed — the oxygen-deprived pigs survived over the course of many hours, the whistleblower said, due to a failure to increase the heat to fatal levels — Iowa Select decided to begin injecting steam into the barns, to accelerate the accumulation of heat and humidity. That steam is visible in the video provided to The Intercept and is the culmination, at least thus far, of several attempts to perfect VSD. The whistleblower explained the process:

They shut the pit pans off, shut the ventilation fans off, and heat up the building. That’s what the plan is. It’s horrific as it is. It was first used on test cull sows: those were first given the VSD treatment. The first day they shut off all the fans and turned the heat up and the hottest they could get the building was 120 degrees. After four to five hours, none of the animals were dead. There was an attempt to induce steam into the building, along with the heat and the ventilation shutdown, and that is how they ultimately perfected their VSD operation. Every time they’ve been euthanizing the animals, it’s been a test in a sense. Piglets were killed off in a barn with gas generators.

The profit model of the agricultural industry depends, of course, on raising animals in ways that cause suffering for years and then ultimately killing them to convert them into meat. Though food lines are growing around the United States, the coronavirus pandemic has prompted factory farms to exterminate animals en masse because of the erosion of their commercial supply chains. Numerous slaughterhouses have been forced to close due to Covid-19 outbreaks among their insufficiently protected employees, and this has only increased the amount of “excess” animals the industry regards as worthless and disposable.

Rather than caring for these animals until pre-pandemic demand returns, or converting them into discounted or donated food for millions of people who have suddenly become unemployed and food insecure by caring for the animals until slaughterhouse capacity can accommodate them, many companies, including Iowa Select, have evidently made decisions driven exclusively by a goal to maximize profits. In sum, they are slaughtering these now “worthless” animals in vast numbers as fast as possible, using extermination methods that cause sustained suffering and agony, to avoid the costs of keeping them alive.

During the pandemic, mass slaughter has become commonplace at factory farms, even though many of these farms are not where large-scale killing is meant to occur. In normal times, the animals would be transported to slaughterhouses and killed there in ways that, at least in theory, minimize the cruelty by accelerating the death process. But mass killings that radically deviate from the normal slaughterhouse process are now rampant in this industry and are expected to increase. “At least two million animals have already reportedly been culled on farm, and that number is expected to rise,” The Guardian reported on April 29. Officials in Iowa “have warned that producers could be forced to kill 700,000 pigs a week due to meat plant slowdowns or closures.”

This mass extermination requires the use of life-extinguishing procedures which, prior to the pandemic, were not typically employed by this industry. And those procedures are anything but quick, painless, or humane, as this four-minute video produced by The Intercept demonstrates:

The Horrors of Ventilation Shutdown

The decision to kill healthy animals in unusually large numbers has led many factory farms to resort to methods that are novel and gruesome. The quickest and most merciful way to induce death for so many animals at once — shooting them in the head one by one — would be too emotionally traumatizing even for factory farm employees who are accustomed to raising animals in order to bring them to slaughter. Even when standard industrial methods of slaughter are used, factory farm work has been demonstrated to entail serious mental health harms for workers.

But the method of ventilation shutdown now being used at Iowa Select causes pigs to endure great anguish over many hours on their way to death. On the hidden audio recorders placed in the barn as part of DxE’s investigation, sustained screams of distress and agony are audible as the heat fills the building while the air supply is shut down. The deployment of armed workers to shoot any pigs who are clinging to life in the morning is designed to ensure 100 percent mortality. But the number of pigs in the barn is so great that standard methods to confirm death, such as pulse-checking, are not performed, making it quite possible that some pigs survived the ventilator shutdown, were not killed by bolt guns, and are therefore buried alive or crushed by the bulldozers that haul away the corpses.

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Pigs are pigs but man is the swine

Karen Lyons Kalmenson

9 Comments leave one →
  1. June 1, 2020 12:26 pm

    Pigs are pigs but man is the swine

    Liked by 1 person

  2. June 3, 2020 12:42 pm last May 30th
    Shared on FB… but I got only two shares.
    Hugs my dear Stacey, hope your’re well!

    Liked by 1 person

    • June 3, 2020 9:21 pm

      Thank you so much, beautiful Claudine. I visited your page and so appreciate you sharing. I am well and I hope you are, too. Hugs, my dear. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      • June 4, 2020 12:12 pm

        Happy to read that you are fine, dear Stacey! I’m tired and proved by a massive work (I don’t know if I told you that I’m a consulter for the job-less people at the Labor Office)… but I keep trying to do the best I can. Hugs and kisses :-)c

        Liked by 1 person

        • June 5, 2020 8:43 pm

          Do you work from home, it sounds as if you are required to be in-office. Take care of yourself, get some rest, sleep without nightmares (if only we could when self-demanded ;). Hugs to you, beautiful Claudine. ❤

          Liked by 1 person

          • June 6, 2020 1:55 am

            For two weeks we worked in “shift office”, one part in the morning the other in the afternoon to avoid an excessive number of people inside the labour office. The other half of the day… and many times until late in the evening (as far as I’m concerned) we worked from home. Afterwards, since each consultant has his own office, we resumed with normal frequency.
            During the complete lockdown, the silence of the city struck me very strongly. You could listen to the birds and seagulls (yes, you read correctly: seagulls, since our lake Maggiore has also become their nesting place and they live with us!)
            But I was scared only in the first days of the lockdown, since I suffer from chronic bronchitis and in the media there was only talk of deaths…
            But, and I am ashamed to say it, I was thinking rather not of the deads people but of those poor animals who were unjustly considered to be the “cause” of the virus; to all those who were brutally killed because initially they were believed to transmit SARS-CoV-2… and to those animals who could no longer receive treatment from humans because they were imprisoned in cages and off-limits.
            Excuse the outburst… I hope now is going to be better, but seeing what happens in the USA, my heart skips a beat… A kiss, and have a serene weekend :-)c

            Liked by 1 person

          • June 6, 2020 8:01 pm

            I’m so sorry, hon, it sounds like it was quite frightening, especially when it was so unknown and chaotic, but I’m glad you were able to view some positivity with the birds singing. 🙂 And don’t ever apologize for caring about those who are defenseless and victims, regardless of the species. It’s who you are and why you’re such an angel. Hugs ❤

            Liked by 1 person

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