6 people face charges of animal abuse

Published 9:24 am Thursday, October 23, 2008

Six people ranging in age from 18 to 60 have been charged with animal abuse following an investigation at a hog-confinement facility in Bayard, Iowa, that contracts with Hormel Foods.

On Tuesday, the Greene County Sheriff’s Office and Attorney’s Office completed their investigation into a complaint of animal cruelty reported on Sept. 15 by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. They alleged the abuse took place at a hog-confinement facility located in southwestern Greene County. The owners of the facility are MowMar of Fairmont in Minnesota and the site is managed by Suidae Health and Production.

PETA supplied the Greene County Sheriff’s Office with videotaped incidents of alleged abuse last summer. It reportedly was documented by undercover employees who were working for PETA. During the investigation, a number of present and past employees were interviewed.

Email newsletter signup

MowMar confirmed Wednesday that all employees charged no longer work there.

Charged in the matter are:

Jordan M. Anderson, 26, of Audubon, Iowa, a former on-site manager: two counts of aiding and abetting livestock abuse, an aggravated misdemeanor, and one count of simple misdemeanor livestock neglect,

Greg W. Hackler, 18, of Jefferson, Iowa: two counts of livestock abuse,

Shawn M. Lyons, 35, of Bayard: one count of livestock neglect,

Shelly A. Mauch, 34, of Scranton, Iowa: one count of livestock neglect,

Richard M. Ralston, 27, of Bayard: five counts of livestock abuse,

Alan B. Rettig, 60, of Scranton: five counts of livestock abuse

Warrants have been issued for the defendants and once arrested they will have their initial appearance before the Greene County magistrate.

Under Iowa law, an aggravated misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of up to two years in prison and a minimum $625 fine or a maximum fine of $6,250. A simple misdemeanor carries up to a maximum of 30 days in the county jail and a minimum $60 fine or a maximum fine of $625.

MowMar released a statement following the release of the defendant’s names and charges.

“All six employees charged by the Greene County sheriff and attorney are no longer employed at the farm. MowMar owners and management will continue to cooperate fully with law enforcement and review the findings from the Sheriff’s Office investigation.

“Further, based on new evidence, Suidae Health & Production, the farm management firm, has terminated the manager of the farm. All existing and new employees receive extensive and ongoing training to ensure that our ‘zero-tolerance policy’ with respect to mistreatment or abuse of farm animals is upheld.

“MowMar shares the goal of ensuring that all animals managed by our operations are treated in a humane manner, guided by policies that meet the highest legal, ethical and industry standards for animal husbandry.”

The vice president of PETA, Bruce Friedrich, addressed the alleged hog abuse at Suidae during a press conference in Austin Tuesday, also berating Hormel for not ensuring the manager featured in the video footage was fired. PETA confirmed the manager was still employed at Suidae Monday, and has applauded the Greene County Sheriff’s Office for its investigation.

“The sheriff seems to be taking the situation more seriously than other investigators,” Friedrich said.

Friedrich told media during the conference at AmericInn that Austin-based Hormel Foods does not reply to requests asking for meetings, calling it one of the worst companies to deal with in the food industry.

“We would like to cooperate with them,” Friedrich said. “They are not a company that cares about cruelty to animals.”

Julie Craven, vice president of corporate communications at Hormel, released a statement Tuesday.

“We found the images in the footage from the Iowa farm appalling, and they are inconsistent with our standards and industry standards for animal handling,” Craven stated. “The abuse on the video shows practices that are completely unacceptable.

“We are working with our entire supply chain to ensure proper animal handling procedures are always taking place. We will continue this important practice going forward,” she said.

PETA is based in Norfolk, Va. For more information about the organization, or to view the video shown during the press conference, visit www.peta.org.

A Sept. 17 video of Hormel Foods’ statement is at www.hormelfoods.com/newsroom/animalhandling.html.