Yup, they strung ‘em up from the nearest tree.  Left them slowly twisting in the wind.  The trial will be held later, but this hanging was done just to save some time.  Wyoming Premium Farms was already found guilty in a kangaroo court.  Judge Roy Bean presided.

The news came to me this week via an email from Matthew Prescott, HSUS Food Policy Director for Farm Animal Protection.  He wrote:“I wanted to drop you a note to let you know that yesterday, we announced that five farm workers from Wyoming Premium Farms have been convicted on multiple counts of animal cruelty. The convictions follow HSUS’ investigation into Wyoming Premium, which, at the time of the investigation, was selling pigs to Tyson Foods. You can read our press release about the convictions here.”

He added a little meat- protein-free gravy to his opening paragraph when he added, “That prosecutors and the courts in Wyoming looked at the footage obtained in the investigation and agreed that the abuse at Wyoming Premium constituted not just cruel but criminal acts, is more evidence that there’s something going drastically wrong in the industry. We believe that this abuse happens in large part because of the culture of cruelty fostered by inherently abusive systems, like gestation crate confinement. When workers see that their employer is okay with locking animals in tiny cages so small they can’t even turn their own bodies around, it’s no surprise they, in turn, end up abusing animals in these criminal ways.”

OK, I agree that the five should have been prosecuted to the full extent of the law, as the old saying goes, and their crimes should have been caught much earlier.  Very soon after the first instance of animal abuse would have been my choice.  But was it evidence that there is something drastically wrong in the industry?  I think not.

It was evidence that good hiring practices failed at WPF and oversight of employee activity was lacking.  It was not evidence that would logically lead to a blanket condemnation of all industry practices.  It did not point to a culture of cruelty.

Wild claims like that are akin to arresting a burglar and claiming mankind promotes a culture of theft.  Sitting in the stands at a NASCAR race and assuming the fans are promoting a culture of speeding and turning left.  Maybe contributing some of your hard earned cash to PETA and assuming they promote a culture of actually saving animals instead of immediately slaughtering over 95% of the pets that are put in their gentle hands.

Or sending $19.95 a month to HSUS to promote their humane society activities.  You did see Wayne Pacelle’s clarification that they never actually made that claim?

Mr. Prescott closed out his message with something most of us can agree on, “Better management systems – like well-run group systems – will create a deeper understanding of animals and their needs amongst workers and hopefully prevent this type of abuse from happening. We applaud those countless farmers nationwide moving in that direction, and hope to see more progress.”

He forgets to mention, of course the even larger group of farmers who never had to move in that direction because they had already been there.  And to that I’ll add that the jury is still out on the efficacy of things like gestation crates or allowing animals to ‘free range’ in sunny pastures and enjoy the thrills of stretching, dirt bathing, bug eating, blizzard conditions, predation, inescapable heat, but I digress.

It’s far more pleasant to imagine a calf romping happily in the meadow than the sight of it being humanely ‘taken down’ by a hungry pack of wolves, or a chicken flapping its wings as it greets the rising sun than imagining it flapping its wings in a futile effort to NOT become a foxes dinner that night.

The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Chuck Jolley, a veteran food industry journalist and columnist.