Crown prosecutor to review finding of investigation of Austin hog operation

Those involved with an Austin hog barn where 1,300 animals were euthanized last year 
will have to wait a little longer to know their fate

Manitoba’s Chief Veterinary Office has completed its investigation of an Austin-area hog barn where 1,300 young pigs were euthanized last fall.

“The investigation has concluded and the file has been referred to the Crown prosecutor to determine if charges should be laid,” said a spokeswoman with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives.

Last September, officials responded to reports of animals in distress at the barn, which was in the midst of being depopulated by its operators, brothers Bernie and Menno Bergen. The pair had been ordered to vacate the property, owned by HP Farm Equipment Ltd. At the time, a representative for the company said the Bergens were six years behind in their rent.

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Provincial officials had offered the operators assistance in depopulating the barn, but the offer was declined.

When officials from the Chief Veterinary Office entered the barn they encountered a disturbing situation, requiring the euthanization of the 1,300 young hogs. The incident attracted further attention when barn manager Tony Heppner went public, criticizing the use of small-calibre rifles in the euthanization process and defending the actions of staff at the facility.

Since that time, the operation has been under investigation for the inhumane treatment of animals under the Animal Care Act.

“Investigations such as this generally take six months to a year to complete,” said the spokeswoman, adding the Crown has up to two years to lay charges following an incident.

In 2012, the Humane Inspection Program for rural Manitoba investigated 311 cases. Nearly half centred on suspected abuse of canines, 15 per cent were equine abuse cases, and two per cent involved porcine animals.

About the author

Reporter

Shannon VanRaes is a journalist and photojournalist at the Manitoba Co-operator. She also writes a weekly urban affairs column for Metro Winnipeg, and has previously reported for the Winnipeg Sun, Outwords Magazine and the Portage Daily Graphic.

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