North Carolina Slaughterhouse Workers Fired for Brutally Abusing Pigs

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Published December 22, 2007

| FoxNews.com

Workers at a North Carolina slaughterhouse caught on hidden camera brutally abusing pigs have been fired.

Several employees of Murphy Family Ventures, which owns pig-breeding farms that supply the country's largest pork producer Smithfield Foods, were filmed by an undercover investigator from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) dragging and beating swine, gouging out their eyes and castrating their babies without painkillers.

Click here to see the video. WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT AND EXTREMELY FOUL LANGUAGE.

A supervisor was also taped admitting to violently mistreating the pigs.

"Non-conformances to the company's animal welfare policy were found," Don Butler of Smithfield's livestock subsidiary Murphy-Brown LLC (a different company from Murphy Family Ventures) wrote in an e-mail to PETA that was supplied to FOXNews.com. "Appropriate actions have been taken, including termination of those who violated the policy."

All existing and future employees will also be forced to sign contracts promising not to abuse animals, according to PETA.

It wasn't known how many workers were fired at the 2,200-pig farm. Murphy-Brown LLC didn't return calls seeking comment, and Murphy Family Ventures declined to offer details.

"Appropriate disciplinary actions have been taken," said a Murphy Family Ventures representative.

Earlier this month, the prosecutor's office in Sampson County, N.C., opened an investigation into allegations of animal cruelty after PETA lawyers turned over affidavits and videotapes of the reported abuse.

The undercover PETA investigator, who worked at the slaughterhouse in Garland, N.C., for $7 an hour from Sept. 13 until Nov. 2 of this year, said he witnessed constant atrocities.

"[The abuse of pigs] happened every day," the PETA employee told FOXNews.com on Dec. 12, speaking on condition of anonymity. "You can't even capture the full horror of what goes on there."

In the grainy, black-and-white video, pigs with the word "KILL" spray-painted on their backs scream as they're yanked to slaughter with a heavy metal prodder attached to their legs, ears and snouts, and women laugh as they cut off the testicles of one piglet after another without anesthesia.

In a different segment, a supervisor boasts about beating the animals.

"I ain't going to lie to you; I've done it," he says. "I have knocked the s— out of them. Like that one bit me the other morning, that mother f—.... I cut the s— out of his G—d— nose with a f— gate rod."

The PETA investigator said he also saw people cutting off the tails of baby pigs, as well as other horrors. Castration and tail-chopping without painkillers are general practice at swine slaughterhouses, according to the animal rights group.

Smithfield's firing of the workers at Murphy Family Ventures Garland Sow Farm is "the very least they could have done," said PETA Vice President Bruce Friedrich. "Our hope is that they will implement a policy so PETA doesn't have to alert them when their workers are abusing animals."

PETA wants all employees involved in the violent mistreatment of the pigs to be charged with animal cruelty, a criminal offense that is generally classified as a misdemeanor under North Carolina law — though some acts are considered felonies.

Sampson County District Attorney G. Dewey Hudson and local law enforcement are still reviewing the case.

"Our initial meeting and subsequent conversations with him have been very encouraging," Friedrich said of the prosecutor.

Murphy Family Ventures pig-breeding farms and slaughterhouses are under contract with Smithfield Foods' Murphy-Brown as pork suppliers.

PETA is calling on Smithfield Foods and its contractors to more aggressively enforce the humane treatment of the animals. The group wants surveillance cameras installed and regular undercover investigations to be conducted internally. It also wants a ban on the use of tiny gestation crates, where the pigs are kept and raised.

Smithfield has come under fire before for human rights violations and the hiring of illegal workers.

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