HSUS targets Wyoming hog operation in undercover video

Heather Hamilton

On Tuesday, May 8, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) released its latest undercover video of pigs allegedly being abused, claiming the footage was shot at Wyoming Premium Farms near Wheatland, WY. HSUS stated the video shows serious animal abuse, and is demanding charges be filed and changes made to the operation. Wyoming Premium Farms is responding proactively as they investigate the allegations, meet with employees, and continue daily activities.

“We have opened an investigation and are working in a joint investigative process with the Platte County Sheriff’s Department and our Wyoming Livestock Board (WLSB) investigators, with direction from the Platte County prosecutor, who will be the prosecutor for this case,” stated WLSB Director Leanne Stevenson.

Dr. Tony Scheiber, who works as a consulting veterinarian for hog operations in four states, including Wyoming Premium Farms, visited the facility in question Tuesday afternoon. Scheiber is pivotal in the operation’s employee training, which focuses heavily on animal care and welfare.

“Wyoming Premium Farms and myself have always been very concerned about animal welfare. We do training sessions with all employees, including Power Point presentations, take home books for employees to read, and a testing process they must pass that is graded by the National Pork Board. If they fail that test, they are required to go through additional training and testing sessions,” Scheiber explained of the operation’s efforts to train employees on proper animal handling and interaction.

He continued, stating that Wyoming Premium Farms has always maintained a zero tolerance for animal abuse or mistreatment, and are very concerned about the treatment of all animals in their facilities.

“We are very disappointed that some employees elected not to follow what they had been trained to do, and were appalled at what we saw in the video. A meeting was held Tuesday with all employees, and we specifically gave those employees seen in the video a chance to explain themselves. All employees seen in the video are currently under suspension, and some may be fired as we finish our investigation,” he explained.

During the employee meeting it was discussed that multiple situations seen in the video were most likely staged through mixing hogs or letting sows out when a wreck was likely to ensue.

“That does not change our zero tolerance for animal abuse, but did present us with some key points to discuss in future training. For example, all employees know to move our hogs carefully and use sorting boards. But, when someone let hogs out and sent them the wrong direction, people didn’t have sorting boards, and it is very possible for hogs to hurt people in those situations, and some employees elected to respond in ways they shouldn’t. We are addressing how to deal with those situations in the future, and are going to increase our employee training as a result of this incident,” explained Scheiber.

Furthermore, he stated that after learning some employees felt they should have come forward, but didn’t, training specifically in the area of communicating issues to managers or Scheiber will also be increased.

Immediately following the employee meeting, Scheiber conducted an unannounced herd visit Tuesday afternoon. He reported the facilities looked fine, and there was no evidence of any abused or suffering animals.

Co-owner and Wyoming Premium Farms Manager Doug DeRouchey hired Whitney Warrington, who filmed the footage. In a public statement released earlier this week he stated he takes the allegations very seriously, and is disappointed he didn’t hear about them directly from Warrington while she was employed on the operation so that her concerns could be addressed immediately.

“We take the pork industry’s ‘We Care’ initiative seriously and are committed to the well-being of all our animals and to the safety of our workers. Once again, we will swiftly address any problems that are identified,” continued DeRouchey in his statement.

“It’s just frustrating for all of us to know it occurred. If the manager or myself would have walked in and witnessed anything like what was shown during some frames of the video, we would have been very upset and the persons involved would have been asked to leave immediately. We are unable to watch every employee every minute of the day, and didn’t know this was happening with some employees. We’re taking steps to correct the problem, and are appalled it ever occurred, video or not,” added Scheiber.

As things move forward, Scheiber said daily activities are continuing at Wyoming Premium Farms. All employees were required to watch the video, which caused some to tear up. No one liked what they saw. “That’s good, and training in itself,” noted Scheiber. “Most of our employees take their training and work very seriously; they make every effort to always treat the animals with care and respect. They are more than willing to step up with us as we work on moving forward.”