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Published November 11, 2013, 11:36 AM

Pork supplier fires suspected activist

The employee was believed to be undercover for Mercy for Animals.

PIPESTONE, Minn. — The Pipestone System has fired an employee following the release of a hidden-camera video by the group Mercy For Animals.

The footage, shot at Pipestone System’s Rosewood Farms in Pipestone, Minn., is narrated by Emmy-winning actor James Cromwell and depicts, according to Mercy For Animals, “pregnant pigs confined for nearly their entire lives in crates barely larger than their own bodies, and piglets being slammed headfirst into the ground and having their testicles ripped out and tails cut off without painkillers.”

Mercy For Animals posted the video on the website WalmartCruelty.com and identified Pipestone System as a Walmart pork supplier.

“Mercy For Animals is calling on retail giant Walmart to immediately adopt new animal welfare guidelines prohibiting its pork suppliers from confining pigs in crates so small they cannot even turn around — something nearly every other major food provider has already done,” Mercy For Animals says in a news release.

The Pipestone System is a network of independent family hog farmers. Among the facilities it manages is the 5,000-sow Jackrabbit Family Farm swine production unit in rural Mount Vernon.

The Pipestone System says in a news release that it cooperated with a Pipestone County Sheriff’s Office investigation into an animal cruelty complaint resulting from the hidden-camera footage. The news release says the complaint was lodged by Jessica Marie Buck, a former Pipestone System employee whom the company believes to be an undercover activist with Mercy For Animals.

“It’s our understanding that the Pipestone County prosecutor has determined not to bring any charges against any of the employees on the farm at this time,” says the Pipestone System news release.

“The Pipestone System does not condone any type of willful animal abuse,” the release continues. “The Pipestone System immediately conducted an internal investigation of alleged mistreatment and discovered certain violations of its Animal Welfare Policy that resulted in the immediate termination of one employee, reassignment of another and follow-up training of the remaining employees.

“The Pipestone System also requested and underwent an immediate third party external audit of the operations at this farm.”

Carissa Odland, director of animal welfare for the Pipestone System, adds, “We remain absolutely committed to animal welfare and will continue to improve upon training and oversight every day.”

The company claims Buck never reported any abuse or mistreatment during her employment and further claims that her actions “clearly violated our animal welfare policy.”

“It is clear that Ms. Buck did not take specific actions aimed at protecting the welfare of the animals as the Pipestone System policies dictate, but instead was solely motivated to obtain undercover footage for Mercy For Animals without any true regard for the immediate welfare of the animals,” says a written statement from Luke Minion, Pipestone System president and CEO.

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