The CEO of Christensen Farms, the Minnesota-based pork producer that is the subject of the latest undercover video released by animal rights activists, says the procedures shown in the video are typical of most pork production operations.
But Bob Christensen says the procedures are intentionally taken out of context.
In an interview with Brownfield, Christensen expressed his frustration with the portrayal of their operation in that video.
“We all, at the end of the day, want to do the right thing for the whole system—and that kind of activity doesn’t really benefit anyone,” Christensen says. “It’s disappointing to see the distortion—the misrepresentation of what truly happens everyday.”
The video, released by the organization called Mercy for Animals, depicts sows in gestation stalls, the use of blunt force trauma as a means of euthanasia, and castration and tail docking of young piglets.
After viewing the video, an animal care review panel put together by the Center for Food Integrity Panel generally agreed that while some conditions and practices seen in the video could be improved, most of what is shown does not indicate animals were abused or neglected.
However, two of the panel members did express surprise that Christensen Farms was still using blunt force trauma as a method of euthanasia. They noted most farms of that size are now using carbon dioxide chambers.
Christensen says they are transitioning to that system. “Our game plan is to have it accomplished by late summer—the middle of August,” he says. “We have had difficulty getting some of the equipment because of the strong movement in the whole sector towards alternative methods.”
Meanwhile, the director of investigations for Mercy for Animals, Matt Rice, says he agrees with Christensen and the review panel that the video depicts standard industry practices.
“The difference is that we, and most of the American public, find them appalling—whereas the industry finds them profitable,” Rice says.
And unlike his counterparts with the Humane Society of the United States, Rice doesn’t deny his group’s true intentions. In a perfect world, he says, animal agriculture would be completely eliminated.
“One of the best ways to make sure that you’re not paying people to abuse animals is to simply stop eating animals,” he says.
Mercy for Animals claims that Christensen Farms is a major supplier of pork to the Walmart and Costco chains. The group has been pressuring the two retailers to move away from gestation stalls in their pork supply chain. On Tuesday, Costco announced that it would ask its suppliers to eliminate stalls by 2022, although the company says that decision was made before the release of this latest video.
Christensen Farms has hog facilities in Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota. The video was recorded at the company’s facility in Hanska, Minnesota.