A deadly new virus has killed millions of baby pigs since it was first reported in the U.S. last May. Porcine epidemic diarrhea can affect pigs of any age, but it’s life-threatening for newborns, who become dehydrated quickly.
Surprisingly, pig farmers are finding it hard to kill the dying babies. “It’s very difficult for the people who are working the barns at that point,” said affected Iowa pig farmer Craig Rowles. “No one wants to go to work today and think about making the decision of baby pigs that need to be humanely euthanized because they can’t get up anymore. Those are very hard days.”
As opposed to the days when unwanted “runts” are killed by “thumping” (slamming their heads against the floor) or when healthy 6-month-old pigs are hung upside down before their throats are slashed and they’re left to bleed out? Pigs are often still alive when they’re tossed into a vat of scalding-hot water to remove their hair.
No one knows how porcine epidemic diarrhea spreads or how to stop it, but the pork industry is ensuring that price hikes make up for the farmers’ lost revenue.