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No charges for Colorado farmworkers videotaped hitting pigs

DENVER (AP) — A video showing workers at a Colorado pig farm hitting animals with cans and boards prompted the firings of seven employees, but authorities said Wednesday no criminal charges will be filed.

A member of the Los Angeles-based group Mercy for Animals filmed the video while working undercover at one of about a dozen Seaboard Foods farms in Colorado’s northeastern corner. The group posted the footage online late Tuesday.

It previously turned over the video to the Phillips County Sheriff’s Office, which launched an investigation and notified Merriam, Kansas-based Seaboard, which did its own probe.

District Attorney Brittny Lewton concluded there was no evidence the abuse warranted criminal charges.

“Although in the video submitted by ‘Mercy for Animals,’ it appears that one or two of the employees for Seaboard Farms is violating company policies and the best practices for livestock handling, the appropriate course of action is either training or termination, not criminal charges,” Lewton said in letter to the sheriff’s office.

Undercover video by Mercy for Animals also captured workers at a now-closed New Mexico dairy whipping, kicking and punching cows last year. Four men were charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty in that case last month.

Seaboard Farms has more than 300 pig farms in Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas and Colorado. It has fired five workers and two supervisors following an internal investigation at the Colorado facility near the Nebraska border, spokesman David Eaheart said.

In a statement, the company said the abuse, which happened while the pigs were being loaded onto trucks, is “unacceptable and inexcusable” and violates its standards. It said all farm managers will be shown the video to send a message that such handling of animals is not acceptable.

Mercy for Animals’ investigations director, Matt Rice, said the company’s actions are “too little too late,” and Seaboard should install livestream cameras to deter abuse.

The video also shows pigs crammed into concrete stalls and a worker snaring a pig and firing a captive bolt — used to stun animals before slaughter — into an its head in front of other animals. Rice said the group doesn’t claim those things are illegal but believes they are unethical.

Seaboard supplies pork to Walmart and other retailers. Mercy for Animals seized on the Walmart connection to try to pressure the retail giant to require its suppliers to adopt reforms, including ending the practice of keeping pregnant sows in crates.

Companies including Target and McDonald’s have agreed to phase out the use of gestation crates by their suppliers. Colorado will outlaw them starting in 2018.

Walmart spokesman John Forrest Ales said the company requires its suppliers and producers to rely only on farms certified as following industry and government rules.

“We hold all our suppliers to high standards and do not tolerate the mistreatment of animals,” he said.

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