The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) released their next round of undercover investigation videos this morning with footage from Kentucky based Iron Maiden Hog Farm.
During a news conference, HSUS vice president of farm animal protection Paul Shapiro took issue with the farm’s use of the industry practice of “feedback”, which is used to prevent the spread of the Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea virus or PEDv. “Mother pigs were routinely fed the ground up intestines of their piglets who had died from a highly contagious diarrhea disease,” he says. “Turning pigs into cannibals, feeding babies back to their own mothers – seems to be a wide-spread practice throughout the pork industry.”
PEDv was first found in May of last year and pork producers have been losing piglets since.
Illinois swine veterinarian Jim Lowe says pork producers are in crisis mode and are looking for an answer to combat this problem. And because using controlled exposure through “feedback” worked to fight TGE, a virus similar to PEDv, he says right now, it is the most effective option.
So how does “feedback” work? The practice is done by taking fecal or intestinal material out of baby pigs that were sick and died of TGE; purifying it, straining it, and giving it back to the sows orally. From there the sows become immune, and the pigs quit dying. “We don’t know what this virus (PEDv) is and we don’t know how to manage it, and we’ve never had it in the country,” he says. “So let’s use the same thing with a similar disease, and that’s what we did as veterinarians. It’s actually highly effective. If we can get all the sows on the farm exposed quickly, the pigs quit dying.”
While companies are working on it, there is still no proven vaccine available for TGE or PEDv.