Earlier this summer animal activists took two piglets from Circle Four Farms in Milford, Utah. The group claims the piglets were being abused. Wayne Hsiung is the founder of Direct Action Everywhere, an animal activist group. He claims Circle Four Farms, owned by the food producer Smithfield, is deceiving the public about the health and living conditions of their pigs.
“As we have in many other cases, we decided to enter the farm, disclose what was happening, and in the event of animals needing emergency medical care we take them to the vet. And that’s what we did,” Hsiung said. ”We saw piles of dead rotting piglets, piglets drowning, literally in pools of blood and feces. In a couple of incidences, we picked out piglets who were covered with blood, had feet that were swollen up, unable to walk and starving to death.”
Hsiung and other activists took the piglets to an animal sanctuary in Colorado and released video footage of Circle Four Farms to The New York Times. Circle Four Farms was then audited by three people, two of them from independent agencies.
“I’ve been in many of these houses,” said Barry Pittman, the veterinarian for the state of Utah. “I’ve been in Iowa, I’ve been in North Carolina houses and these were some of the cleanest, best I’ve seen. Filtration, air, ventilation, all that was some of the highest I’ve seen, some of the best I’ve seen. I didn’t have any concerns.”
Pittman said two sows were noted to have injuries but did have treatment records. He is however, worried that when activists break into a regulated commercial facility, like Circle Four, there could be a safety breach. Everyone who enters the facility is required to take off their clothes, shower, then put on new clothing before they enter the facility. The same process is repeated when leaving the facility. Hsiung said the activists also have a strict bio-security policy, but Pittman said it wasn’t enough.
“They started out on the facility, so number one, they were trespassing. Number two, they actually filmed the breaking and entering into one of the gestation houses,” Pittman said. “No, they didn’t scrub in, so they violated bio-security. That’s almost a bio-terrorism incident. There was like five of them in there, no masks. We hose off even after we scrub in, we hose off in-between each room that are in those gestation houses. They didn’t do any of that.”
Since the activists took the piglets across state lines, the F.B.I. retrieved them because of the USDA’s strict policy for transporting livestock.
“The F.B.I has gone across the country on this wild goose chase, harassing sanctuaries, scaring grandmothers, scaring children, following volunteers back to their homes because they think what we did was a ‘crime,’’ Hsiung said. “But the reality is the crime here that happened was at Circle Four, where they’re torturing literally millions of pigs every year.”
Hsiung said he has a legal and moral right to help animals in need and stands by what he did.