CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Wyoming Premium Farms LLC in Wheatland has made several changes to its operation in the wake of allegations of animal cruelty.
The company has taken steps to prevent employees from treating animals improperly, said Doug DeRouchey. He is the general manager of Premium Farms.
"There are more checks and balances to make sure it doesn't happen again," he added.
The changes follow the release of footage that showed alleged animal abuse.
But the Humane Society of the United States said Friday that the company can do more. Spokesman Paul Shapiro said the factory pig farm should stop using gestation crates.
In a related matter, it is unclear whether official charges have or will be filed in the case.
The Platte County Sheriff's Department and the Wyoming Livestock Board looked into the allegations after they were made public. They then gave the results of their investigation to the Platte County attorney.
An employee for the attorney said on Friday that the office does not discuss ongoing investigations.
The Humane Society of the United States in May released its undercover investigation of the pig breeding facility.
A film showed some employees drop-kicking piglets and swinging sick piglets around by their hind legs, among other things.
Wyoming Premium Farms has since fired five employees, including a manager. The manager was fired because of a "clear lack of supervision," DeRouchey wrote in an email.
"The cause of this incident was weak supervision and a lack of systematic education and training," he added.
The company recently hired Audubon Manning Vet Clinic from Iowa. It will manage all of the company's pig production facilities, DeRouchey he said.
"They handle all the day-to-day operations of the production unit," he added.
The external farm management company will provide animal welfare education as well.
Wyoming Premium Farms is strengthening training programs for employees. Other actions include:
— Continuing to train employees with Pork Quality Assurance Plus and Transportation Quality Assurance.
— Conducting an internal audit of animal handling every four months. A visiting vet will do an external audit every year.
— Setting up a hotline so employees can give anonymous tips about improper animal handling.
After the Humane Society's investigation went public, a third-party auditor inspected the buildings, DeRouchey said.
That auditor found that no animals were hurt because of damage at the facilities.
"Judging by the condition of the animals, there were no obvious signs of improper handling," DeRouchey wrote in an email. "Overall, the animals were in good health with very low incidence of infectious diseases."
But the Humane Society's Shapiro said firing employees who beat animals is a no brainer.
"There are more systemic problems that are not being addressed," he added.
The company needs to get rid of gestation crates, he said. These are small enclosures for animals.
The crates "are so cramped (the pigs) can't even turn around," Shapiro said.
Officials at McDonald's and Burger King publicly have said they want to stop the use of gestation crates, he said. And Hormel Foods announced it will stop using crates after 2017.
Eight states n including Colorado n have passed laws to ban or phase out the use of gestation crates.
Wyoming Farms has one barn that uses gestation stalls. Another built in 2011 keeps pigs in larger groups.
Company employees are comparing which situations work best, DeRouchey said.
"Some animals don't do well in group housing," he said. "It's not unusual for a sow to return to her crate even if a door has been left open."
He estimates that gestation crates are used for up to 80 percent of sows nationwide.
Information from: Wyoming Tribune Eagle, http://www.wyomingnews.com