Tuesday, August 08, 2006

150 Pigs Die in Transport from Ohio to Mexico: Who’s to Blame? Fingers Pointed

They’re all pointing fingers but they all miss out on the important point: transport that far will lead to a painful and horrible death for many. Perhaps it shouldn’t occur at all.


Charges likely in pigs’ deaths

Investigation ongoing into when, where pigs died


The Brownsville Herald

Investigators are still looking for answers in the deaths of 150 pigs that arrived here during transit to Mexico in late June.

The animals were delivered to a Texas Department of Agriculture pen near the Brownsville-South Padre Island International Airport. At which point they died of suspected heat exhaustion and dehydration is unclear.

TDA spokesman Allen Spelce said TDA employees were not responsible for the deaths.

“Most of the pigs — of the 150 pigs that died — most of those pigs died in transit,” he said. “They did not die at the export facility.”

In all, 2,644 swine were en route from Ohio to Queretaro, Mexico, when they stopped at the border for a routine check. Some pigs arrived on June 26 and others on June 27, but all were originally intended to cross the border simultaneously.

About 45 pigs were found dead on June 27 and the rest on June 28 as paperwork issues continued to stall the pigs’ transit. The pigs’ ultimate destination was a breeding facility owned by the Pig Improvement Co., or PIC.

Spelce said TDA employees tried to help.

“We asked him (a truck driver) to unload the pigs because they were obviously distressed,” he said. “The driver refused to unload the pigs because he said he needed to get permission from PIC. ... Eventually, the driver got permission, and we were able to water and take care of some of them.”

As long as the pigs remained on the trailers, Spelce said, they were PIC property and not TDA’s responsibility.

It is not yet clear what trucking company or companies were used to transport the animals. The driver or drivers involved in this incident have also not been identified.

John McGlone, a professor of animal science at Texas Tech University, agreed to investigate the situation on behalf of PIC on the condition he make his results available to all agencies involved. He said some animals likely died in transit but doubts the claim that most died before reaching Brownsville.

“The care provided for the pigs (in transit) was variable,” McGlone said. “Some pigs on some trucks received better care than pigs on other trucks.”

Having visited the Ohio pig farms, the Mexico facility and the pens on the border, McGlone said this case matches others he has investigated in which different groups of people work with different information to the detriment of the animals.

“If something bad happens because of one person, then somebody adds to the problem ... who’s accountable? Well, they both are,” he said. “I have not found anybody yet that willfully mistreated animals.”

Brownsville police Lt. James Paschall said the local investigation is ongoing, but charges are expected in the case.

“We definitely feel an individual is going to be charged in this case, but it is actually turning out to be quite a complex case,” he said, adding that the international nature of the transport — including Canadian drivers, the Mexican destination and the United Kingdom-based PIC — has complicated the issue.

In August 2004, 12 cows died of dehydration at a ranch outside Brownsville. No prosecutions were made because the cattle own-ers resided in Mexico, and the U.S. owners of the land were not held responsible.

Paschall said it was too soon to say if most of the pigs died during transport or in Brownsville.

Animal welfare groups, including the Humane Society of the United States, have taken an interest in the case as an example of harsh animal transport practices.

Peter Brandt, an attorney working for Humane Society, said TDA should be responsible as owners of the facility, disagreeing with the statement that most of the pigs died in transport.

“That is flatly inconsistent with the police reports. It is inconsistent with the photographs taken by police and inconsistent with their prior statements,” he said. “No one (else) disputes that whether or not some of the pigs died in transport. They were left inside these metal containers (in Brownsville).”

Reannon Peterson, spokeswoman for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said TDA’s claims are possible.

“According to the (animal transport) industry, more than 1 million pigs die during transport, especially in the summer time,” she said. “The cruelty claim still stands.”

Regardless of the investigation’s results, McGlone’s primary goal is finding ways to prevent similar situations in the future.

“We’ll never know the answer to that because I (as a pig expert) wasn’t there and the people that were there were not pig people,” McGlone said. “I’m less concerned about somebody going to jail or being fined than stopping this from happening in the future.”

No comments:

Search for More Content

Custom Search
Bookmark and Share

Past Articles