Doing the right thing

Nobody wants to be caught in the act of doing something wrong. Worse yet, is when those catching the misdeed is the last person on earth we want knowing of the misstep.

Workers at three Seaboard Farms in Colorado were recently caught allegedly mishandling animals. Seaboard management was made aware of these allegations by Phillips County, Colo., authorities, and the Seaboard senior level management immediately initiated an internal investigation. Seaboard has a zero-tolerance policy for improper animal handling, and based upon the internal investigation’s findings, management did the right thing – they terminated the employment of five employees and two management supervisors.

According to a statement on Seaboard’s website, the company did not receive the complete video that the Phillips County Sheriff’s Office had received as evidence. However, the four-minute video the company did see showed enough to identify improper handling while loading pigs onto trucks – actions that go against Seaboard Foods’ training and best practices.

Seaboard wishes the organization that captured the allegedly incriminating undercover video would have reported the allegations by placing a call to Seaboard’s toll-free hotline, rather than taking it to law enforcement authorities. If these organizations, which I will not mention by name, truly cared about the treatment of livestock they would bring the alleged handling shortcomings to the company rather than running to law enforcement.

Of course Seaboard wishes this would have never happened, the company is trying to make best of a bad situation. The web statement says Seaboard is reinforcing that employees are to report any acts of improper animal handling to the company’s employee animal care toll-free hotline. Reinforcement of Seaboard’s zero-tolerance of improper animal care that will result in termination of employment will be communicated to employees. Farm managers will also be shown the undercover video, reinforcing what is unacceptable. All farm managers will also be shown a video depicting proper handling of animals from barns to trailers.

Not that I approve of how animal rights groups obtain their incriminating video, and I realize context of a video clip can be misconstrued, but every pork producer needs to act as if they are always being videoed and recorded. A few years ago I interviewed a southern Minnesota hog producer who said he tells his employees to always act as if a parabolic microphone is set up near your farm, as if someone is always listening to your operation.

Seaboard’s web statement says “Our animal care program, protocols and training are audited independently by Farm Animal Care Training and Auditing LLC, whose audit reviews are Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization certified. In addition to extensive training at the start of employment, all team members who handle live animals receive ongoing training for proper animal care and handling. They also sign a commitment to the proper and humane care of our animals and agree that if they witness any acts of improper animal handling they will immediately report it to their supervisor or call our animal care toll-free hotline.”

That commitment was solidified by when Seaboard management did the right thing and terminated those who acted against how any pork producer wants to be portrayed.

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