Undercover video at Hormel hog supplier shows workers hacking off piglets' tails


The hidden camera footage comes from one of the nation's largest hog operations. The livestock-raising factory, located in Hinton, Oklahoma, belongs to the Maschhoff family. Upward of 2,000 sows breed untold tens of thousands of piglets here.

Within weeks of birth, the youngsters are shipped off to other facilities. The Maschhoffs -- whose slogan is "Progressive Farming. Family Style" -- provide animals to Hormel, the 126-year-old Fortune 500 company headquartered in Austin, Minnesota. 

 Hormel retails foods under many names, including Spam, Jennie-O, and Dinty Moore. 

The video, released Tuesday by the international animal protection organization Mercy For Animals, was shot in 2016. 

It shows various disturbing practices that are commonplace at swine breeding farms.  

Piglets' tails are severed. Some are castrated. In both cases without any pain relief.

"With the animals living in such confined spaces, with so many other animals, it puts stress on them," says Mercy spokesperson Cody Carlson. "Because of that, they'll often bite on the tails of the others, or anything else that's nearby. Their tails are chopped off so more animals can fit into these small spaces. At these kind of operations, it's about efficiency of space."

The video also shows mother pigs suffering from various maladies in cramped gestation crates. Inside these confines, sows cannot lie down or turn around. 

According to the group, the use of such crates "has been widely denounced as one of the most abusive factory farming practices in the world." 

Carlson says Hormel has pledged to eradicate the use of gestation crates at both its own facilities as well as those of its suppliers by 2018. The company responded to release of the video by suspending receipt of livestock from the Maschhoffs' Oklahoma facility until "a thorough investigation" is completed.

"People need to remember that nothing found in our investigation is unusual or illegal," Carlson says. "They're routine in factory farming."