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Roy Graber, staff reporter for WATTAgNet, combines his Midwestern farming background with his knowledge of economics and agriculture policy to offer a deeper look at the poultry and pig industries.
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Maine governor: HSUS ‘was cruel’ to Hillandale hens

Paul-LePage-HSUS
Maine Gov. Paul LePage recently said the Humane Society of the United States is cruel to animals because it advocates filming undercover videos of animal suffering rather than taking action to stop the suffering from happening. | Nelz, Bigstock

Gov. Paul LePage says HSUS representative simply left camera rolling instead of trying to prevent hens from suffering

January 13, 2017

It would appear that Maine Gov. Paul LePage has a bone to pick with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) over the methods the organization used to create an undercover video at a Hillandale Farms egg operation in the state he governs.

During a recent speech to Maine’s agricultural leaders, LePage called out HSUS and used them as an example of why whistleblower protections for paid “political operatives” involved in undercover operations need to come to an end, reported the Portland Press Herald.

While the Press Herald delved more deeply into the whistleblower issue, little examination was shown concerning something just as important, if not more important.

LePage, who is known nationally for his bombast and bluntness, made one comment that addresses something we should all think about.

“(Hillandale) hired a gentleman to come in (and) take care of the chickens. So what did he do? He brought his camera and he was watching chickens doing things where they were being hurt. And he never lifted a finger. In fact, he was cruel to animals,” LePage said.

While I’m not sure if the reporter, who apparently sought comment from HSUS, asked about LePage’s allegations that the HSUS investigator’s inaction kept the birds from harm’s way, it would be interesting to hear such a reaction.

Prior undercover footage at Hillandale Farms

The particular video LePage mentioned allegedly was filmed in 2016 at a Hillandale Farms operation in Turner, Maine, it wasn’t the first time Hillandale was targeted.

In June 2015, HSUS circulated a video that it filmed at a Hillandale farm near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Following the video’s release, Hillandale conducted a full investigation by company representatives and independent outside academic experts in food safety and hen welfare.

Here’s what the company had to say after the investigation concluded: “We believe our high standards were compromised by this undercover employee, who shot the video in a barn where he was the primary caretaker, with responsibility to maintain cleanliness in the barns, address any equipment issues and remove mortality on a daily basis. It appears clear that he disregarded required operational procedures and then videotaped the barn and flock with the intent to misrepresent Hillandale Farms. … The images in the video reflect an isolated incident in a barn where the undercover worker held primary responsibility. It was his job to identify and address the types of issues that were shown, and he did not adequately perform his job requirements.”

Costco Wholesale Corporation, which was also targeted in the 2015 video because it sold eggs from Hillandale, investigated the situation and stated the egg company behaved appropriately.

So who is behaving inappropriately here? Is it the farm owner who HSUS alleges is doing harm to hens, or is it the undercover activist/caretaker who LePage alleges is doing harm to hens?

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