American meat giant Tyson Foods cut ties with an Oklahoma pork farm Wednesday almost immediately after the release of an activist's undercover video showed brutal abuses of pigs at the facility.
The highly edited video, its contents graphic and disturbing, was released by Los Angeles-based animal-rights group Mercy for Animals. It showed short clips of men grabbing piglets by their hind legs and smashing their heads to the ground to kill them. Other clips showed men kicking pigs in the face and hitting the animals with boards and a bowling ball.
In a statement sent to the Los Angeles Times, Tyson Foods said it was "extremely disappointed by the mistreatment shown in the video and will not tolerate this kind of animal mishandling."
"We are immediately terminating our contract with this farmer and will take possession of the animals remaining on the farm," the statement said. "We’re serious about proper animal handling and expect the farmers who supply us to treat animals with care and to be trained and certified in responsible animal care practices."
Mercy for Animals identified the farm as West Coast Farms, based in Okfuskee County, Okla. Multiple attempts by the Los Angeles Times to reach the farm were unsuccessful Wednesday morning, but owner Lonnie Herring told NBC News he was taking action against his employees.
“I was stunned that anyone could be that callous in their treatment of any animal," Herring told NBC News. "After viewing the video, I immediately returned to my farm and terminated the employees seen in the video."
Mercy for Animals said the undercover footage was filmed in September and October 2013 and shows workers also cutting off tails and pulling out animals' testicles without painkillers in addition to a worker gouging a conscious pig's eye with his finger.
Matt Rice, director of investigations for Mercy for Animals, told the Los Angeles Times that the unidentified undercover worker applied for a job with the company and took a secret camera to work with him.
Rice said the undercover activist reported abuses to the farm's management and ownership "multiple times" to no avail, and that the Okfuskee County district attorney had begun an investigation.
A prosecutor with the district attorney's office couldn't immediately be reached for comment.
Rice said Tyson's actions Wednesday were "too little, too late if Tyson really cared about animal welfare," criticizing the company's use of so-called gestation crates that limit movement for pregnant sows.
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