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Originally published July 1, 2011 at 4:29 PM | Page modified July 1, 2011 at 6:40 PM

Costco stops buying pork from farm shown in undercover video

Costco Wholesale of Issaquah has stopped carrying meat from one of the country's largest pork producers, where an undercover video released this week showed live piglets being thrown across large distances and castrated without painkillers.

Seattle Times business reporter

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Costco Wholesale of Issaquah has stopped carrying meat from one of the country's largest pork producers, where an undercover video released this week showed live piglets being thrown across large distances and castrated without painkillers.

The warehouse retailer said late Thursday that its supplier, JBS Swift of Colorado, which buys live animals and converts them to food, has stopped buying from that farm "until a complete study is done to ensure that all humane protocols are being precisely implemented."

In a written statement, Costco said it "will insist on proof through an ongoing audit that all such humane procedures are being followed."

Kroger and Safeway also said they have stopped carrying Iowa Select's pork.

Iowa Select said it is investigating the "unacceptable animal handling" shown in the video. The company's veterinarian also said he was "deeply troubled that someone would videotape what they believe is animal abuse if they had a chance to report it and stop it."

It is the second time in a year that Mercy for Animals, an activist group from Chicago and Columbus, Ohio, has released a video depicting mistreatment of animals whose meat is sold at Costco and other major retailers.

Last fall, Costco decried the treatment of veal calves by a supplier in Ohio, saying it had no idea there was a problem until it saw footage taken by Mercy for Animals showing calves chained by their necks in narrow pens. Costco later learned that's common practice at some veal farms.

Costco customers who voiced concerns over this week's pig-farm video were sent a message from CEO Jim Sinegal.

"I want to assure you that this situation has the highest priority with our entire management team, and confirm to you that Costco does not tolerate any animal abuse anywhere in our food supply chain," he wrote.

The most recent Mercy for Animals video shows piglets being castrated and having their tails cut off without painkillers, and there is footage of piglets whose castrations were botched, causing fatal intestinal ruptures.

Some are also thrown to get them out of workers' way.

One farm employee explains on video: "Oh no, they're fine. Pigs are very bouncy. It's like a roller-coaster ride for piglets."

Lawmakers in several states including Iowa are trying to make it a felony to take pictures and videos at factory farms.

Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or mallison@seattletimes.com

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