Activists Arrested After Burying Piglets At CEO’s Mansion Following Gruesome “Pandemic Depopulation” Exposé At Iowa’s Leading Pork Producer
Investigators say “ventilation shutdown” is criminal livestock neglect as pigs are “roasted alive”
JUNE 10, 2020, DES MOINES, IA - As seen on Facebook livestream, five activists with the grassroots animal rights network Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) were arrested Wednesday afternoon at a funeral demonstration outside a Des Moines home of Iowa Select Farms founder and CEO Jeff Hansen. Three of the activists buried dead piglets retrieved from an Iowa Select Farms facility.
They dressed in black and dug individual holes for seven piglet bodies. They placed a flower beside each body in the holes before covering them with dirt. Activist Kitty Jones, who was arrested, addressed the livestream camera, speaking somberly about the piglets and conditions at Iowa Select Farms. Others can be seen on the livestream using a megaphone to shout towards Hansen's home, imploring him to stop abusing animals.
All five -- Curtis Vollmar (33), Kyana Jones (27), Brianna Martelozzo (29), Anastasia Rogers (27), and James Crom (28) -- face a misdemeanor trespass charge. Jones, Martelozzo and Crom also face a 4th degree criminal mischief charge.
The demonstration follows a grizzly exposé released on May 29 showing “pandemic depopulation” methods at Iowa Select Farms, the largest pork production company in the state. DxE investigators worked in collaboration with ISF employee whistleblowers, who contacted them with concerns over animal and worker abuse. DxE investigators placed secret cameras in industrial sheds as the heat was raised above 140 degrees and steam was injected into the building while the ventilation ports were closed -- a process the industry calls “ventilation shutdown.” The hidden camera video shows thousands of pigs shrieking over a multi-hour process before collapsing and being bulldozed out of the building.
DxE says the cruelties of the industry against both animals and workers (who are forced to commit acts of animal cruelty) have been hidden by a state government that has taken large donations from the pork industry. Governor Kim Reynolds, who has been reopening meat production facilities despite complaints about skyrocketing COVID-19 cases among workers, has received over $300,000 from Jeff Hansen, his wife Deb and son Michael.
Citing a legal opinion from a former federal prosecutor, as well as a veterinary opinion, DxE says the cruelty shown in its undercover videos is a clear violation of Iowa state law. DxE submitted a criminal livestock neglect complaint to the Grundy County Sheriff’s Department last month, but it was the investigators themselves who were subsequently charged with trespassing at the request of Iowa Select Farms. After the wide distribution of the footage, arrest warrants were issued against two investigators for felony burglary.
Industry veterinarians, ISF internal communications, the Iowa Attorney General’s Office and the Grundy County Sheriff’s Office contend that the practice of ventilation shutdown is not only lawful but humane, but activists say these opinions have been unduly influenced by corporate lobbying. Moreover, an ISF whistleblower says the choice to use VSD was one driven by profit; it’s cheaper to kill pigs on-site than to send them elsewhere to be killed.
“Jeff Hansen -- who owns multiple mansions and the fifth largest pork producer in the country, and flies around in a private jet, claims to have ‘exhausted every possible option’ before doing this,” said Jones. “He’s brutalizing animals and exploiting workers, plus insulting our intelligence along the way.”
Iowa legislators last week introduced what activists are calling “Iowa Ag-gag 3.0”, which has already passed through the senate and house. The bill would elevate a second “agricultural trespass” offense to a felony. It’s expected to soon be signed into law by Governor Reynolds, who last year signed the state’s prior “ag-gag” statute into law, despite widespread public opposition, within just weeks of taking office. (That law has since been suspended by a federal judge as unconstitutional.)
DxE says Iowans are opposed to industry abuses, but are denied truthful information by animal agriculture’s corrupting influence over our political system.
As part of its #CancelAnimalAg campaign, DxE is calling on Governor Reynolds and government officials everywhere to address the impact of animal agriculture amid the coronavirus crisis. Rather than doubling down with subsidies to continue propping up the industry, activists are calling for an end to the devastation once and for all.
(DxE encourages industry workers, government employees, or anybody at all to submit testimony and evidence of industry misconduct at DxE.io/Whistle. Whistleblower anonymity will absolutely be respected unless explicitly authorized otherwise.)
Investigators with Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) enter farms, slaughterhouses, and other agricultural facilities to document abuses and rescue sick and injured animals. DxE’s investigatory work has been featured in The New York Times, ABC Nightline, and a viral Glenn Greenwald exposé. DxE activists led the 2019 grassroots effort to ban fur products in California. Activists have been subjected to FBI raids and felony prosecutions for these investigations and rescues. Visit Direct Action Everywhere on Facebook, at directactioneverywhere.com. and on Twitter @DxEverywhere.