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APNewsBreak: Prosecutor won’t charge hog farm workers

October 9, 2015

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A prosecutor said Friday that he has decided against charging any employees of a Minnesota hog farm who were recorded on a graphic undercover video treating animals in a way that their own employer called “disturbing.”

Los Angeles-based Last Chance for Animals released video in August that it shot at a Christensen Farms breeding facility in the southwestern Minnesota city of Luverne. At the time, the company, one of the country’s largest pork producers, said it had suspended seven employees and launched a full internal investigation. CEO Glenn Stolt said in a statement that it was “unacceptable that this behavior was allowed to continue, and was not brought to our attention immediately.”

Assistant Rock County Attorney Jeffrey Haubrich told The Associated Press on Friday that he won’t file the animal cruelty charges that Last Chance for Animals sought. In a letter to Sgt. Jeff Wienecke of the Rock County Sheriff’s Office, which Haubrich provided to the AP, he said the videos are not admissible in court and that an outside veterinarian found nothing at the farm that could provide a basis for criminal charges.

“Our primary consideration is that there are substantial evidentiary issues with the material provided by Last Chance for Animals. The video and reports are obviously highly edited and filtered to enhance the position they are advocating and they lack the basic requirements for admissibility in court,” the prosecutor wrote. “Namely, there is a lack of foundation and no chain of custody for the main pieces of the evidence that have been presented.”

Haubrich also wrote that it appeared the veterinarian did not find any widespread problems at the farm or with people employed there. He found that the facilities and its methods were acceptable “within industry standards” and that “the animals appeared well cared for.”

Adam Wilson, director of investigations for Last Chance for Animals, said the group doesn’t consider the case closed and that he will write to Haubrich detailing its concerns with the decision. He said the group offered the prosecutor and detectives full unedited copies of its original recordings, and offered to make its undercover investigator available to corroborate their authenticity and other details of what the investigator witnessed, but got no reply.

“The decision was a political one — not to go after a very large corporate farming operation that’s a Minnesota company,” Wilson said. “It seems very obvious the investigation is not complete and it was not taken with the best intentions.”

The video released to the public showed sows bleeding from open sores and other injuries, including protruding organs, or lame from swollen legs. It also showed one worker repeatedly jabbing a lame sow with a pen to try to get it to move, leaving wounds on its back. The group said it recorded numerous instances of sick and severely injured sows being left to suffer for weeks.

Officials with Sleepy Eye-based Christensen Farms and the company’s attorney did not immediately respond to requests for comment late Friday afternoon. Nor did an attorney for the employees, and it wasn’t immediately clear if they still work for the company.

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