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Open letter to readers: Today and tomorrow

By Lynda Waddington | 11.17.11

Wednesday was a difficult day for The American Independent News Network, which is the larger entity that operates The Iowa Independent. Our chief executive and founder announced two of our sister sites would close and their content would be moved to The American Independent.

ACS lockout continues; plan emerges to repeal sugar protections

By Virginia Chamlee | 11.15.11

A recently introduced bill could have far-reaching impact on the U.S. sugar industry, including American Crystal Sugar, a farmer-owned cooperative that locked out 1,300 Midwest workers on Aug. 1.

Cain campaign: Farmers know more about regulations than EPA

By Andrew Duffelmeyer | 11.15.11

The chairman for Herman Cain’s Iowa effort says the campaign “relied more on the word of farmers than Washington regulators” in deciding to run an ad containing claims the Environmental Protection Agency says are false.

Mathis wins, Democrats maintain Senate control

Liz Mathis
By Lynda Waddington | 11.08.11

The Iowa Senate will remain under the control of a slim 26-25 Democratic majority when it reconvenes in January 2012.

Press Release

PR: Nation should work to address veterans’ challenges

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

BRUCE BRALEY RELEASE — As US involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan ends, it’s more important than ever that our nation works to address the challenges faced by the men and women who fought there.

PR: Honoring veterans, help in hiring

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

CHUCK GRASSLEY RELEASE — A difficult job market is challenging the soldiers, sailors and airmen who have protected America’s interests by serving in the Armed Forces.

PR: In honor of America’s veterans

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

TOM LATHAM RELEASE — No one has done more to secure the freedom enjoyed by every single American than our veterans and those currently serving in the armed services.

PR: Honoring and supporting our nation’s veterans

By Press Release Reprints | 11.11.11

DAVE LOEBSACK RELEASE — Veterans Day is an opportunity to reflect on the service of generations of veterans and to honor the sacrifices they and their families have made so that we may live in peace and freedom here at home.


Whistleblower video alleges hog abuses at Iowa Select Farms

Legislative proposal would have made video release a criminal offense
By Lynda Waddington | 06.29.11 | 3:50 pm

Earlier this year, even as state lawmakers debated a proposal to criminalize undercover operations at agriculture facilities, investigators from animal advocacy group Mercy for Animals were shooting hidden video at one of the nation’s largest hog operations. The video footage, as well as the abuse it alleges, were released Wednesday.

The graphic video, which is embedded at the bottom of this report, was shot between April and June of this year at Iowa Select Farms in Kamrar. It shows a series of concerning images that include piglets being tossed about and slammed into concrete flooring, sows with uterine prolapses, piglet castrations and tail dockings without pain relief, botched castrations, open wounds and conditions within gestation crates (small cages that house sows, most not allowing the animal to lie down, which have been banned by seven states).

The company has stated that only “a small portion” of the video shows employees engaging in practices that are unacceptable. Given the average American’s distance from food production, however, many industry standard practices will likely be found troubling.

Illinois-based Mercy for Animals, which freely acknowledges its hopes for more Americans to become vegans, is specifically targeting the grocers who purchase pork from Iowa Select Farms via JBS Swift. Those grocers include Hy-Vee, Safeway, Kroger and Costco. At least two of the grocers have already registered their disapproval of the images on the video, and have halted purchases from Swift.

West Des Moines-based Hy-Vee released a statement that company officials had contacted Iowa Select Farms directly to discuss the video:

Hy-Vee will only do business with suppliers that are committed to the humane treatment of animals. This is an industry-wide issue that affects all producers, not just the facility portrayed in this video. It also affects all supermarkets, and ultimately all consumers who buy meat products. We share our customers’ concerns about animal welfare and will continue to monitor our suppliers’ policies and practices in this important area.

Hy-Vee has chosen not to switch its supplier at this time, preferring to see the results of the Iowa Select Farms own investigation. The statement also noted that Iowa Select Farms “shared with us that some of the scenes in the video may not be what they appear.”

Howard Hill, veterinarian for Iowa Select Farms, issued a statement saying that the company “has a long-standing commitment to animal welfare” and that an investigation had already begun into the portions of the video showing “unacceptable handling by a few employees.”

The company, he noted, will be working with an animal behavior and well-being researcher from Iowa State University “to provide additional consultation to deal with specific actions depicted in the video that do not reflect Iowa Select’s commitment to animal welfare and continuous improvement.”

And, perhaps echoing some of the debate that took place at the State Capitol in relation to a bill that would have criminalized such undercover efforts, Hill noted the instances of alleged abuse were not immediately reported so it could be stopped within the company’s existing “no tolerance” policy.

The Iowa legislative proposal hoped to carve out special legal penalties for individuals who helped in the creation or distribution of undercover videos or audio on agricultural sites. Nearly identical proposals were also debated in Minnesota and Florida.

“On the videotaping thing… first of all, there has been some amendments drawn, but I think the most important thing that you need to know is that it isn’t always described accurately in the news media,” Iowa Sen. Sandy Greiner told audience members at a League of Women Voters legislative forum in May.

“This is about someone who intentionally comes to [a farmer] and applies for a job with the intention of getting inside to take photographs. They never say, ‘I want to come to your farm and take photographs.’ They just say, ‘I want to be your top-notch power-washer,’ or your feed grinder, or whatever it is that they want to do. That’s what this bill is trying to get at: People who misrepresent themselves and their intentions.”

Greiner, a Keota Republican, added that the bill “is not about hiding anything,” but offers “protection for any employer.”

“I mean, it doesn’t matter if you own a hardware store and someone is not turning on the fans when they are mixing paint — you know, OSHA has all of the rules. If somebody comes in as an employee and seeks that jobs with the distinct purpose of doing something to defame you, that is where the problem lies.”

The bill before the legislature, however, does not provide these unique protections — or protections outside of existing trespass and fraud laws — to all businesses. The bill is specifically written to only address agricultural facilities with livestock or crops.

Investigators with Mercy for Animals did pose as employees, but Executive Director Nathan Runkle has noted that they did so while using their real names and Social Security numbers.

“Part of our message is there is not a single federal law that provides protection to factory animals. What we need are stricter, stronger laws,” he said.

Iowa Select Farms was founded in 1992 and is the largest pork producing company in Iowa. Nationally it ranks fourth among all pork producers. The company employs more than 900 Iowans in 43 counties.

The undercover video is embedded below; however, because it is age-restricted on YouTube, some readers may need to log onto that website in order to view it:

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  • Citizen Kane

    I don’t support Mercy for Animals in any way, but I do support freedom of speech. If the courts make it legal for all the shell and shelf companies to have an equal voice as mine, why do I need to be concerned over any business getting publicity that isn’t positive and promotional? To darn bad.
    Clean up business and its practices that are fraudulent and prosecute the owners as if these businesses were people, maybe then I will reconsider how sympathetic I am towards business getting negative press. Don’t see many businesses doing us any favors of late?
    Where are the jobs for my kids, republicans and the tea party ran on that premise, I am still waiting. Haven’t seen much except a lot of social meddling that has nothing to do with improving the business or economic climate in the US. I haven’t seen any regulatory action on making the perpetrators of the economic mess truly accountable for what they did.
    Do we have short memories? Haven’t you notice the tone has changed? These liars are getting ready for the next elections, lie to us for about a year get elected and rip us off blind and pass crap for their cronies and their own benefit for a year. No More Lies! Educate yourselves and vote local, which is where the corruption begins the fermentation.

  • egc52556

    I apologize for my state Senator, Sandy Greiner.  She’s an idiot.

  • Chelsea Allen McFadden

    This video is disturbing on several levels, but beyond the horrific cruelty imposed on these animals, it is equally shocking that if Iowa Select had it their way, consumers would have no idea the pork they buy comes from these diseased animals.

    It’s no surprise 6 out of the 8 genetic components of Swine Flu have all been found in U.S. factory farms. It’s atrocious that millions of Americans are unknowingly consuming the pathogen-laden flesh of sick animals.

    Whether you care about cruelty to animals or not, I think we can all agree that what animal agriculture has become is unhealthy for people and a public health risk. While factory farming may one day become a thing of the past, no one has to wait until then to stop supporting this abominable and dishonest practice.

  • Janet Weeks V

    Tell me again that Big Animal Ag “cares for its animals, otherwise they wouldn’t produce” and that these horrific cruelties are “isolated incidents.” Yet another brand new undercover video by Mercy For Animals proves otherwise.

    Factory Farmers produce “happy videos” that show only the lies it would have the public believe. No “pork” producer willingly shows the truth of what intensive lifetime confinement means to a mobile creature (insanity), or what separation from her babies means to a mother (heartbreak and anguish), or what constant rape, pregnancy, and birth do to a female animal’s body (exhaustion and physical breakdown). No “bacon” producer willingly shows piglets having their tails cut off or their testicles ripped out of their bodies through open incisions without anesthesia. NO! They prefer to show their drip lines for fresh water and feed mash mixed with “nutrients and vitamins” (antibiotics) and workers smiling and patting a pig’s flank affectionately. Oh, and they always show the thermostat to emphasize temperature control–all for the animals’ “comfort.” “Sparerib” producers don’t show the blood on the iron bars of the pigs’ confinement stalls where, from boredom and insanity, the pigs, who have nothing else to do, gnaw at the bars until their mouths bleed. Big Animal Ag says these practices and worse are “acceptable industry practices.” Slamming piglets to the ground to “euthanize” them is “acceptable industry practice.” Well, I’m here to tell you: These practices are NOT ACCEPTABLE TO THE AMERICAN PEOPLE.

    The best thing consumers can do to prevent lifetimes of suffering is to reject animal cruelty by ditching all forms of pig and other animal flesh, or at least to reject animal flesh from U.S. food retailers until such time that they REFUSE TO ACCEPT PRODUCTS FROM IOWA SELECT FARMS.

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