A year ago, we were sickened by animal-cruelty allegations at the Hallmark/Westland meatpacking plant in Chino, Calif. Now, another undercover expose has occurred at an Ohio hog farm - and will be shown to viewers of Home Box Office repeatedly in March. The film originated with a group known as the Humane Farming Association. HFA turned to a young man named "Pete" who makes his living doing undercover investigations of suspected animal cruelty. Pete obtained a job at the farm, and the film shows his investigation over the course of six weeks, during which time he used a hidden camera to document numerous disturbing scenes: piglets being hurled across a room into a crate where they crash into each other or onto the floor; an unhealthy piglet being taken by the feet and slammed against a wall to euthanize it; impregnated sows crammed into pens that don't allow them to move for up to 116 days, and finally, a sick hog being hung from a forklift by a chain, where it is seen convulsing for five minutes, according to a public-relations representative for the documentary.
For any of us the agriculture industry, this documentary sends shivers down our spines. It is reminiscent of those made in the past such as “Fast Food Nation” and “Super Size Me,” and this one will be no different as it has the power to reach a great number of people, influencing and shaping the thoughts of viewers. To put things into perspective, HBO has an estimated 35 million subscribers, and a premier program on HBO can reach between 1 to 3 percent of that audience, or about 500 thousand to 1.5 million people. For a single, low-budget documentary, that’s a lot of bang for their buck, and I’m worried about the effects this video may have on the future of livestock production. So, how should we respond to this documentary, “Death on a Factory Farm?”
I believe this is a perfect time for every one of us in agriculture to link arms and work together to stand up for the livestock industry. While the pork industry is the ones that will directly suffer from the impacts of this video, we all need to recognize that it could have easily been the beef industry taking the hit. For anyone that works in animal production, this documentary should be of a great concern. I encourage all of you to tune in to this documentary, and follow up with letters of response to the producers and to HBO. Then, start up some conversations with your friends and neighbors to hear their thoughts. Then, we need to work to correct the misguided information on this video. I will provide my thoughts once the video has aired. Until then, maybe we should start looking for the perfect candidate to start making our own documentary for each respective livestock group. It’s time we start telling our own story and quit letting city guys with cash to burn tell it for us.