A lawsuit that alleges workers at a Minnesota factory farm fed dead piglets’ body parts to their mothers was recently unsealed following an investigation by the federal government.
Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Minnesota following an undercover investigation from nonprofit Animal Outlook about reportedly unlawful and inhumane conditions at Holden Farms in Utica.
Holden Farms, which is the 16th largest U.S. pork producer reporting to have 72,000 mother pigs in 2022, did not respond to media inquiries.
The lawsuit alleges Holden Farms has repeatedly violated state and federal bans on “garbage feeding” — or feeding waste products to farmed animals — and animal cruelty laws.
Video captured during the Animal Outlook investigation showed workers allegedly feeding piglet intestines, feces, and bodily fluids to mother pigs — a practice known as “feedback” in the animal agriculture industry.
The video also allegedly showed acts of cruelty, including piglets left to die in a pit filled with waste and pig corpses, pigs walking around with their intestines hanging out of their bodies, piglets trying to nurse from a dead mother, workers beating mother pigs too sick or injured to move, and workers playing “catch” with a piglet and throwing the piglet so hard into a PVC pipe that the pipe burst, according to ALDF.
Those documented conditions were in violation of the Federal Swine Health Protection Act, Minnesota anti-cruelty laws, and the Minnesota anti-garbage feeding law, which is in place to help prevent the spread of zoonotic diseases and illnesses that can massacre hundreds of tightly-packed animals, ALDF said.
The conditions also made Holden Farms liable under the False Claims Act after the farm reportedly falsely certified to the U.S. government that they were following all laws when they applied for — and received — a $2.57 million pandemic loan, according to the lawsuit.
“Holden Farms feeding dead piglets to their mothers is disgusting, unethical and unlawful, and we believe this practice continues at its facilities today,” said ALDF’s Managing Attorney Daniel Waltz. “Factory farms are already an immense risk for spreading zoonotic disease based on the large number of animals kept in confined, concentrated spaces — but compounding that risk with this ‘feedback’ practice during a global pandemic is unconscionable.”
The lawsuit was “sealed” — or not immediately in the public domain — so that the U.S. Department of Justice could investigate the claims of fraud.
ALDF said the next step in the process is that Holden Farms must now respond to the lawsuit.