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Chairman defends pig producers' practices

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The Manitoba Pork Council says hidden-camera video that appears to show the inhumane treatment of hogs at an Interlake operation doesn't represent the practices of the entire industry.

Karl Kynoch, a Baldur-area hog producer and chairman of the council, said some images on the video show methods that do not conform to the council's codes.

The video was released after an investigator with animal advocacy group Mercy for Animals Canada got a job at a Puratone Corp. farm in Arborg and spent about 10 weeks filming with a hidden camera.

The video appears to show agitated pigs with open sores in tiny cages, adult animals being euthanized using bolt guns to the head and piglets being euthanized by slamming them against the floor.

"This is three months of video being edited down into 10 minutes," Kynoch said Monday. "They are going to go in and look for the worst moments because their end goal is that everybody stops eating meat."

Kynoch said slamming pigs against concrete is the way Manitoba pig farms euthanize pigs and that when done properly is the most humane way to kill the animals.

"You want to euthanize with the least amount of pain possible," he said.

Yet Kynoch said he was disturbed by some of what he saw on the video.

"Seeing employees doing it improperly was very disappointing and it is obvious that more training needs to be carried out."

He said most Manitoba hog producers show a higher level of respect.

The council has given the video to the province's chief veterinary officer, who will determine if charges of animal cruelty are warranted.

Meanwhile, the owner of the Arborg operation is launching its own internal investigation.

In a statement on its website, Puratone said: "We are disturbed by some of the images shown in the video taken at one of our farming sites, which do not reflect our animal-welfare policy and principles."

Puratone is Canada's third-largest pork producer.

"The vast majority of our people respect the animals under their care and follow good stewardship practice," Puratone said. "We require all staff to adhere to our animal-welfare policies and nothing else will be tolerated. We have launched an immediate investigation, and corrective actions will be taken."

Mercy for Animals Canada is calling on major grocery chains to stop carrying meat from producers who use gestation crates, tiny stalls in which sows spend most of their lives.

Twyla Francois, the director of investigations for the organization, said the hog industry in Canada needs to update the way it runs hog farms.

"Canada is incredibly archaic in the way that our factory farms are run," Francois said. "The gestation crates are such a cruel practice that they have been banned in the entire European Union, New Zealand, Australia and nine U.S. states, and increasingly more and more retailers are moving to practices that do not come from this system."

Francois said the hog industry in Canada doesn't change because of "institutionalized ignorance, which they find profitable but we find appalling."

Kynoch said the industry is always looking to find more humane ways to treat pigs.

"We are constantly working and researching to move forward, not backward. We are always trying to improve. There is a cost to change, but we want to deliver the best animal welfare possible, and that is why we are doing the research," he said.


-- with files from Canadian Press

Warning: disturbing content

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 11, 2012 A10

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