SALEM, Ohio – A Wayne County hog farmer, his son and a farm employee were charged with cruelty to animals Jan. 17.
The charges come on the heels of an undercover investigation into the farm’s practices by the California-based Humane Farming Association, and a raid at the Ken Wiles farm on Steiner Road near Creston.
Ken Wiles was charged with two counts of cruelty to animals, as was an employee, Dusty Stroud. Wiles’ son, Joe, who serves as farm manager, was charged with six counts of cruelty.
The three will be arraigned Jan. 30 in Wooster Municipal Court.
Canton City Prosecutor Frank Forchione reviewed video footage and spoke to employees, a veterinarian and members of the humane society before filing the charges.
The case was moved to Canton because a relative of Ken Wiles works in the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office, according to Forchione.
Forchione said he’s taking the case “very seriously” and that he reviewed evidence for about 30 days before filing the charges.
“What was most disturbing to me was the hanging, barn conditions, the sores, and slamming pigs on the floor,” Forchione said, citing actions seen on video allegedly shot at the farm.
Ken Wiles’ attorney, Russell Buzzelli, said the case is “in its most nascent stages of development” and that it would be “premature” to make any comment regarding the charges.
“But at the appropriate time and in the appropriate form, rest assured, I will be making a very strong statement,” Buzzelli vowed, noting he is looking forward to “a most vigorous defense in this matter.”
Ken or Joe Wiles did not return calls seeking comment.
Sheriff’s deputies and Wayne County Humane Society officials raided the Wiles hog farm near Creston Nov. 8.
Their raid was sparked by a year-long undercover investigation and a report by the Humane Farming Association backed by photographs and video that depicted animals being treated inhumanely.
Portions of that video were repeatedly aired on at least one Cleveland-area television station.
The humane farming group claims it found several ongoing violations on the farm, including lack of humane euthanasia, veterinary care and adequate shelter, along with filthy conditions and inhumane handling. The association also alleges gross neglect and maltreatment.
In the association’s report to the prosecuting attorney, workers described situations where sick and debilitated pigs are left to die, and if they were killed, it was done inhumanely.
The report also claims the Wiles farm disposes of dead and live pigs in buckets and then dumps them in a large, excavated hole near one of the barns.
Investigators allege floors of gestation and farrowing crates, which are slatted, become “caked with urine and fecal material,” which forces sows to lay in their own excrement.
“Manure becomes mixed with urine and excessive amounts of feed dust and daily organic dust, resulting in a grossly unsanitary environment for the pigs,” the report claims.
“That sounds to me like a regular old hog barn. These people have an agenda,” Wiles previously said of the humane farming group.
He believes that agenda is to get Americans to quit eating meat, he said, noting one employee who cooperated in the undercover investigation is against animal agriculture.
The farm includes about 1,600 sows, plus piglets and boars, for a total of around 6,000 animals, Ken Wiles previously told Farm and Dairy.
Bradley Miller, national director for the Humane Farming Association, said his group is “pleased” charges have been filed, but regrets the charges aren’t felonies under Ohio law.
Miller also said the group feels the facility should be shut down and all animals removed.
“Even if they’re sent to slaughter, it would be better than enduring those conditions,” he said.
The Humane Farming Association bills itself as “the nation’s largest and most effective farm animal protection organization” and runs the world’s largest farm animal refuge, according to its Web site.