In a statement today, RMFU President Kent Peppler, a fourth-generation farmer in Mead, Colorado, commended Wyoming authorities for acting swiftly to investigate claims of animal abuse at a factory farm north of Wheatland, Wyoming.
“Wyoming Premium Farms came into Wheatland over the protests of local citizens concerned about the conditions typical of factory farms. The community fought for environmental protections and won. But factory farms present other abuses harder to prevent. If the incidents on the video showing abuse at the plant are verified, we urge the State of Wyoming to prosecute the perpetrators and hold management accountable for what appears to be a culture of neglect, cruelty, abuse, and torture.”
Wyoming Premium Farms is owned by Japanese sausage-maker Itoham, which apparently closed its Denver offices a few weeks before the video was made public. According to the Chicago Tribune, Itoham, Japan’s second largest pork processor, was fined 30 million yen in 2005 for evading millions of dollars in customs duties on pork imports to Japan. In 2004, Platte County, Wyoming, placed a moratorium on approving additional factory pig farms in response to complaints by Wheatland residents about the stench from Wyoming Premium Farms. In spite of concessions for environmental protection, confining 10,000 plus pigs shoulder-to-shoulder in barracks and gestation crates produced industrial-scale waste. An aerial shot of the farm north of Wheatland shows a sewage lagoon nearly twice as large as the confinement sheds.
In 2001 Wyoming Premium was in the news when an employee error resulted in the drowning of 2,000 piglets, according to the Rocky Mountain News. Peppler said, “Factory operations can breed abuse and neglect. When something like this happens, it’s unusual, but it’s no surprise. A family operation might involve 200 or 300 pigs per year, and your profit depends on treating each animal well. Accountants for a factory farm with 10,000-20,000 pigs a year can write off a few hundred killed by neglect or cruelty as the cost of doing business. Untrained, unskilled workers paid minimum wage or less to work in septic conditions are in an environment which can bring out the worst in them.”
RMFU has been an active opponent of factory farming for decades. “Family farming is not inhumane. We like our steaks and ribs as much as anyone, and we grow our own or purchase from local producers who share our values. We welcome visitors and questions. Corporate agriculture’s new unofficial slogan, ‘Shut up and eat,’ is going to backfire. The American consumer is asking questions, and the answers are bringing them to family farms, where we don’t measure our success by how much we get from the land, but by how much we get without destroying it. When my dad was farming, corporate representatives taunted us with ‘Get big or get out.’ Well, we’re still here, we’re still families with values as important to us as the economic bottom line. And we have a message for factory farms, not just from us, but from consumers: ‘Get clean or get out.’ Corporations seem to think that ethics are the frosting on the economic cake. Maybe they are right, but when was the last time you bought a cake with no frosting?”