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Hog farmers have nothing to hide here

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By Ron Birkenholz

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The Ag Protection Act signed into law March 2 by Gov. Terry Branstad is not about prohibiting undercover videos as some want you to believe. The new law only attempts to protect the farmer from people who seek and obtain employment under false pretenses. Like any other business person, a farmer should have the right to know the true identity of someone who is seeking employment with him or her.

Hog farms are business enterprises run by experienced farmers who have a passion for raising food animals. Swine production practices are based on that experience, as well as years of proven scientific research on how best to properly care for and maintain the health, safety and comfort of the livestock.

With the exception of an undercover video from a Bayard farm released in 2008, there have been no other documented cases of livestock abuse on any Iowa hog farm. All of the other undercover videos have simply shown common animal-handling practices, which could be taken out of context by those unfamiliar with livestock production.

The Bayard video resulted in the termination and conviction of several employees, which the Iowa pork industry applauded. The Iowa Pork Producers Association strongly condemns any mistreatment or abuse of livestock and recommends that any perceived abuse be reported immediately. Instead of immediately reporting the abuses documented in the Bayard video, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) chose to unveil the video at a news conference three months later.

The pork industry’s quality-assurance training and education programs ensure that those involved in the care of pigs understand their ethical responsibility and possess the skills necessary to provide good care. Iowa’s pork producers have fully embraced these programs, with more than 22,000 individuals certified — the national leader. Producers also are subject to inspection and review by veterinarians and other third parties on a regular basis.

If you really want to see pork production at work, there are family farms in Iowa already showing how hogs are raised today. There are any number of farmer-produced hog farming videos on YouTube. IPPA tries to accommodate all media requests for photos or video of pork production, and many farmers are happy to oblige. The pork industry does not have anything to hide and those who want to see first hand what it’s about simply have to ask.

It all comes down to ethics and honesty, and we don’t think that is too much to ask.

Ron Birkenholz is Communications Director, Iowa Pork Producers Association. Comments: rbirkenholz@iowapork.org

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