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Tuesday, Jun 27, 2006County: Cameron
Abuser names unreleased
In what investigators call a "clear case of animal negligence," 130 pigs perished while confined inside truck trailers at the Texas Department of Agriculture's Livestock Export Facility near the Brownsville-South Padre Island International Airport.
"Somebody neglected those animals there," said Josue Ramirez, Brownsville's public health director. "We understand that occasionally one dies in transportation because there are so many and that one can die occasionally from an accident, but when you have so many animals dying, it's pure neglect."
Originally from Ohio, the swine were destined for Queretaro, Mexico, ordered by PIC International in Mexico, the pig subsidiary of Genus Plc., a British biotechnology distributor.
Keith Canfield, PIC global marketing director, said his company is going to conduct an investigation.
"Any time, there is an incident, like a delay in transportation, our number one concern is the animals," he said, adding that the pigs were never meant for slaughter. "These are intended for breeding. These would be parent animals."
Any animals traveling across international borders must stop at export and inspection points, but the pigs were left in their transport trailers for several days.
"All of the trucks were scheduled to come in on Wednesday [June 28], and two of the trucks came in on Tuesday [June 27]," said Lt. James Paschall of the Brownsville Police Department.
Texas Department of Agriculture officials were unprepared for an early shipment according to Mario Hernandez, TDA livestock pen manager.
He told police 45 pigs on the first two trailers died Wednesday. Those bodies were transported to the city landfill. Hernandez claimed the remaining live pigs could not be unloaded even after USDA inspection because proper paperwork had not returned from the Mexican broker handling the transfer, Alfredo Hernandez of Hessen Forwarding Ltd.
About 1,000 pigs were left in five trailers, huddled into the metal containers through highs of 96 degrees Fahrenheit outside and daily averages of about 65 percent humidity. Higher humidity levels prevent natural body cooling factors, according to the National Weather Service.
"Based on the initial investigation, the pigs were overloaded, and several trailers were not properly equipped with watering devices," Paschall said. "That's just not the way we do business."
"That would be violation of our policy," he said. "In the summer months, we actually stock fewer animals for transportation."
The exact cause of death - dehydration, heat exhaustion or other complications - has not been determined. Police investigators are also determining who was ultimately responsible for the pigs at the time of their demise.
Five truck drivers have been identified by police, but so far, only the Mexican broker and pen manager are considered suspects. The Ohio livestock producers who initially loaded the pigs for transport may also be considered responsible.
The case is being pursued as a cruelty to animals charge, a Class A misdemeanor in Texas.
- The Brownsville Herald - June 30, 2006
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