A Virginia-state veterinarian has found no indications of pig abuse in the Smithfield hog farm at the center of a Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) undercover investigation and subsequent abuse allegations. Richard Wilkes visited the farm last month as part of Smithfield's own investigation into the claims.

The Virginian-Pilot reports that Wilkes observed conditions at the Waverly farm for more than nine hours and say no evidence to support the abuse. He did note an occasional skin lesion but found that it did not indicate any type of inappropriate treatment.

Wilkes said that he was impressed with the pigs' demeanor at the Waverly farm. Had they been abused, Wilkes explained that the hogs would have exhibited avoidance techniques, such as running to the opposite side of the pen when approached. Instead, the animals were curious, investigated visitors and were receptive to interaction.

Like much of the general public, Wilkes was horrified when he viewed the short clip of the undercover HSUS investigation. He did not feel that the behavior depicted in the tape was acceptable. However, Wilkes applauds Smithfield officials for immediately responding to the allegations, which included bringing in famed animal researcher Temple Grandin, offering internal health records for viewing, and firing employees who violated animal-handling procedures.

However, the undercover video also reignited the ongoing debate on gestation crates. Wilkes will not comment on the topic because research on sow stalls is currently inconclusive.

Smithfield reports that it is replacing all crates in their facilities.

The HSUS responded to the Wilkes' comments with skepticism. They complain that Smithfield provided Wilkes with a pre-announced, "white-glove" tour. They also contest Wilkes' evaluation of gestation crate research.

Wilkes has been a veterinarian for more than 33 years and has worked with the state of Virginia since 2005. He assisted in the coordination of many state programs, including sanitary inspections of farms and the monitoring of animal diseases and dog fighting.

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Source: The Virginian-Pilot