Tooele Valley Meats is under pressure from an animal rights group following a recent suspension due to an alleged botched killing of a pig.
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals notified the Tooele County Attorney’s Office of a letter from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which temporarily suspended the slaughter of animals at Tooele Valley Meats.
The USDA letter described an incident on May 21 in which a Tooele Valley Meats’ employee attempted to stun a large male hog with a 9mm semi-automatic pistol. The employee fired at the hog, which remained standing and “vocalizing in distress,” according to the USDA letter.
The employee then made a second attempt with the same pistol, which did not render the hog unconscious, the USDA letter said. The employee attempted a third time then had to leave the kill-floor area as the pistol had no ammunition.
After the third attempt, the hog was lying on its side and breathing rhythmically, the USDA letter said. Eight to 10 minutes passed between the first attempt and the third attempt.
The employee was directed to retrieve an ammunition cartridge for a captive bolt device, during which another three to five minutes elapsed, according to the USDA. Following a misfire and reload, the hog was finally rendered unconscious in a fourth attempt, 15 minutes after the process began.
The USDA inspector notified Tooele Valley Meats owner Ed Roberts of the non-compliance and resulting suspension. The noncompliance was specifically an egregious inhumane noncompliance, which refers to any act that causes severe harm to an animal, such as multiple stunning attempts.
Tooele Valley Meats was also cited on March 22, after a USDA inspector observed an employee require three stunning attempts to knockout a hog. Following corrective actions and preventive measures, a suspension was held in abeyance.
Roberts said the hog in the May 21 incident was large and aggressive, so the employee stood back farther than usual. He said employee safety is his number one priority.
From a longer distance, the employee missed several shots but Roberts said the errant shots weren’t intentional or intended to cause additional harm to the hog.
“It was an accident,” Roberts said.
Roberts said his business is federally inspected and a USDA inspector always oversees slaughter operations.
“We work with the USDA every day,” he said.
Following the May 21 incident, slaughters at Tooele Valley Meats shut down for a week while the business worked with the USDA to tighten internal procedures, Roberts said. Among the changes: to only bring one animal to the kill-floor area at a time; in the past two animals were brought in at a time, according to Roberts.
Once the changes to policy were accepted by the USDA, slaughter operations at Tooele Valley Meats were restored, Roberts said.
PETA contacted Tooele County Attorney Scott Broadhead on Wednesday, requesting an investigation into criminal charges for the incident. The animals rights group alleged the Tooele Valley Meats employee violated Utah’s cruelty to animals law.
“These disturbing revelations show that this pig suffered a prolonged, agonizing death at Tooele Valley Meats,” says PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch, in a press release.
Tooele County Attorney Scott Broadhead said he received the letter from PETA and is looking into the incident.