Matt Johnson, the undercover investigator from Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) who was charged by Iowa’s prosecutors in a case involving documenting ‘ventilation shutdown’ in a pig farm, has had his case dismissed.
After he and others got a tip, they secretly placed cameras inside Iowa Select Farms premises in May 2020. They recorded the killing of hundreds of pigs with ventilation shutdown, where farmers turn off the airflow in a room with animals, pump in steam, and let the heat rise until everyone inside dies in prolonged agony.
According to the Washington Post, “The American Veterinarian Medical Association’s guidelines said the method should be used as a last resort after others are ruled out. That it should be done quickly enough to kill 95% of the animals within an hour. And that all must be eventually killed. But Johnson captured audio of pigs shrieking some for hours as the temperatures rose.”
The farmers that used this method justified it on the shortage of staff in slaughterhouses caused by the COVID pandemic, as meat production companies became hotspots of infection.
As Johnson rescued one pig called Gilly from the incident, he was charged for burglary, planting recording devices, and trespassing at a food operation (a new offence created by an Iowa ag-gag law). After the charges again him were dismissed on 20th January 2022 just before he was going to stand trial in Wright County, he said to the Guardian: “I think when people see activist repression, it’s actually very positive for movements because you get that sympathy, you get that attention, and people see you as someone who’s suffering unjustly,”
In an op-ed article, Johnson wrote: “The state of Iowa falsely accused me of “terrorism” for exposing animal abuse. They’re lying about the food system, too…With the charges dismissed, I will not get to make my case before a jury of my peers and ask the government and industry to answer the deep and troubling questions that the state would prefer not to be asked.”
After having watched the videos from the DxE exposé, Dr Crystal Heath, a veterinarian and founder of Veterinarians Against Ventilation Shutdown, said the following to UnchainedTV: “It was a horror. One of the biggest animal welfare crises of recent years… My profession, the American Veterinary Medical Association, has lent legitimacy to this practice. It listed it in their guidelines on depopulation as a method to use in constrained circumstances. But this was not such a constrained circumstance. The pork producers could have gotten rid of these pigs in a more humane way. But they chose to use this method and it was just horrifying.”