USA: Pigs To The Slaughter – What Man Will Do To Intelligent, Sentient Beings.

Other, less excruciating methods were off the table. Factory farms claimed that they couldn’t obtain enough guns and ammunition, captive bolt guns and charges, carbon dioxide or electrocution equipment quickly enough to pursue any of the methods those tools imply. So after the success of the second test in the converted trailer, the industry adopted “ventilation shutdown,” as the method of overheating animals to death is known. Construction crews converted barns into giant makeshift ovens, their ventilation inlets and wall seams sealed, food and water removed, and heaters and steam generators affixed to them. In at least one case, the steam generator the farm used was designed for the railroad industry, to heat railcars.

For the animals themselves, it resulted in what the industry deceptively calls ‘euthanasia,’ but that is, in fact, in many cases an excruciatingly slow and torturous death.

It’s unclear how many pigs were killed this way. But nationally, at the end of April, when swine processing was down by 45%, according to one peer-reviewed paper, a quarter-million pigs per day who would have been sent to slaughter in normal times remained in their pens, awaiting some other end. As of June, when the industry began to bounce back, there were still 3.2 million such pigs. The National Pork Producers Council estimated that more than 10 million pigs exceeded the industry’s processing capacity from the end of June to mid-September. All those pigs were killed somehow, and if the industry is to be believed, ventilation shutdown was one of only a few feasible methods with which to do it (others included CO₂ gassing and slaughtering without processing the animals). An article written by five veterinarians on ventilation shutdown reports that at the single site they studied, nearly 250,000 pigs were roasted alive between April and June of 2020.

I’ve reported on animal exploitation extensively in the past, and specifically about Direct Action Everywhere, a Berkeley-based animal rights group. A couple of years ago, I formally joined the organization as a member. I don’t claim to be neutral when it comes to this issue, or this organization. I disclose this because DxE, as the group is abbreviated, is a big part of what happened next—and specifically, a DxE activist named Matt Johnson, whom I consider a personal friend.

Lucas Walker is a young, burly guy who voted for Trump and belongs to the NRA. Until recently, he was a truck driver for Iowa Select Farms, and looks the part. Walker grew up in the heart of pig farming country in Iowa and raises a few cows and pigs himself. But he found himself increasingly bothered by the casual abuse of pigs by overcrowding that he had seen every day on the job. Walker struggled with what to do about it. He knew there would be a backlash in his community, a town of just 6,000 people where the industry he was exposing constituted the entire local economy. “Big company, small town,” he said to me. The company’s COO lived just a mile and a half from his home.

Walker first learned about DxE when he watched a video that Matt Johnson had shot of the atrocious conditions on the hog farm of an Iowa state senator who had sponsored the state’s new “ag gag” law. In May, Walker sent an anonymous email to DxE to inform them about conditions at Iowa Select.

Walker wasn’t familiar with Matt Johnson, but his employer was. And some of the workers at Iowa Select Farms facilities soon would be, too. Later, when Johnson snuck onto an ISF farm, he found a flyer in the break room with his picture on it. The flyer said, “Si entra à la granja, nos carga la verga”: “If he gets on the farm, we’re fucked.”

Walker and Johnson struck up a dialogue. Walker told Johnson conditions at Iowa Select were far worse than on the state senator’s farm. Johnson was listening, but it was only after the pandemic began that the conversation really started to take shape. Johnson would ask Walker about the company’s ventilation shutdown plans—when and where were they happening—and Walker would go to work, strike up casual conversations with coworkers and find out. Then he’d pass it back to Johnson.

After having gathered logistical information from Walker, Johnson returned to Iowa. Along with a small team of activists, he staked out the facilities. “It was never a sure thing it was going to happen,” Johnson said. “Maybe a 50-50 chance.” But Johnson managed to sneak onto the barns that had been converted into VSD death chambers, and planted hidden cameras inside. The cameras captured hours of the agonizing extermination of hundreds of pigs, on both video and audio. Glenn Greenwald and I released the footage to the public.

Continued on next page.

4 thoughts on “USA: Pigs To The Slaughter – What Man Will Do To Intelligent, Sentient Beings.”

  1. Thank you so much as always, Mark. (Why is it that the cruelest people – anag farmers and execs – are also the MOST cowardly and whiny? Who’s the victim?)

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  2. Thanks Mark. I failed to read Matt Johnsons and DXE FB page until now, having myself relocated to Ireland with new device and cant login to FB! Will forward this post to other social media, this cannot be let go under the radar else it will become the casual “norm” for any event eg.no ammo for bolt gun, lost keys! In the report the torturous deaths are being described as a Depopulation and this really does smack of Auschwitz. I cry in despair at the cold calculations. Please run an update on Matt Johnsons trial and where he is being held so that we may write letters of support to him. Thanks Di Donnelly

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    1. And I just received this email with more detail, it references the following link, with a message from Matt:

      https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSewmlouYweqeszzTywfv2sqoH6s9_3Fy2Uw97wjRu_-PyqTDw/viewform

      “I’m heading to Iowa later this week to visit my family for possibly the last time in a while. Later this month, I start a felony trial where I’m facing up to 8 years in prison for investigating Iowa’s largest “pork” producer and rescuing a sick piglet named Gilly.

      It happened in the spring of last year amid widespread COVID outbreaks at slaughterhouses nationwide. An employee whistleblower tipped us off about Iowa Select Farms — unable to send pigs to slaughter — using a gruesome mass kill method called “ventilation shutdown” or VSD. Thousands of pigs were loaded into a shed, the vents were sealed off, and heat and steam were pumped inside to kill them in an agonizing, slow death. With a team of investigators, I helped capture the horrific process on camera and sent it to the media.

      The exposé garnered support from millions of people, but the authorities in Iowa decided to prosecute me instead of the animal-abusing company. And Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds stood by the factory farms too. Less than 2 weeks after the investigation was publicized, Governor Reynolds signed Iowa’s third ag-gag law, creating a new crime called “food operation trespass” which I was later charged under.

      But you know what? I consider it a blessing in disguise.

      My trial now has the opportunity to challenge the constitutionality of ag-gag laws and establish a precedent for a new wave of anti-ag-gag legislation. Imagine if instead of covering up animal cruelty, our laws gave ordinary people the right to see inside these places, and even the right to rescue sick and suffering animals. That’s what is at stake in this trial. And that’s why I want to ask you…
      Will you join me in Iowa for this groundbreaking trial? Sign up here to register for court support during my trial and get important updates about the event.
      Whether you’re supporting in person or online, stay tuned for more updates and ways you can help.

      Thank you for your support.

      Matt”

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  3. Hi, Di, I received this email from DxE a few days ago, it indicates Matt’s trial will be in a few weeks, I hope this is helpful; visiting DxE might also provide information as the trial date nears:

    “The odds were stacked thoroughly against Gilly, literally from the day she was born. As tragic as the life of a typical pig in a factory farm is, it was considerably worse in the spring of 2020.

    As society came to grips with the new reality of a global pandemic, the brutal, profit-driven engine that is animal agriculture chugged ever forward. Slaughterhouse outbreaks spread like wildfire in unsanitary, close-quarter working environments. Infected workers were swiftly replaced by others, until eventually, there simply weren’t enough people healthy and desperate enough to maintain business-as-usual.

    They had nowhere to send the pigs.

    By now, you’ve probably heard about the brutal reality of “ventilation shutdown” faced by hundreds of thousands of “market-ready” pigs across the country. What you may not be aware of is how the supply chain disruptions impacted the smallest of victims. Under normal circumstances, piglets with a certain severity of illness or injuries are routinely killed, their market value not justifying the cost of their care. In May 2020, with the toll of COVID-19 peaking, the situation was even more grim. At Iowa Select Farms, piglets who were not “perfect” – showing any indication of a minor infection, injured leg, or really any ailment at all – were to be killed with a zephyr gun that would send a bolt to their head.

    When DxE investigators Linda Cridge and Matt Johnson found Gilly, she had a fever, wounds on her legs, and a facial infection later determined to be Streptococcus bacteria.

    She would have never stood a chance. So we rescued her.

    Courageous DxE investigators, supported by thousands of people like you, carried her out of that hellhole, got her to the vet, and brought her to her forever sanctuary home. For a few weeks it looked like she might not make it, but she pulled through and is doing well today.

    In return, Matt and Linda were charged with felony burglary.

    With Matt’s trial less than three weeks away, Gilly stands as an ambassador of both the barbaric reality of the world as it is, and a ray of hope for what it can become. The people of Iowa will soon decide if rescuing animals is a crime, or simply the right thing to do. And as we prepare for our first trial of 2022, I am grateful that you are there with us along the way.

    Thank you,
    Almira”

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