TEWKSBURY — A video of a pig being processed at the Oliveira farm surfaced last week, raising another set of questions about the operation and its handling of animals in Tewksbury. The video was posted via the social media platform Snapchat, and appears to have been taken by someone other than the operator of the slaughterhouse.
This is a violation of the orders of condition as per the 2014 notice of decision for the custom slaughterhouse that was issued by the Tewksbury Board of Health, and discussed as recently as Thursday, Dec. 19, 2019 with attorneys for the Oliveira piggery at the Tewksbury Board of Health meeting.
The video, provided to the Town Crier, shows a pig being handled in the slaughtering process. Concern arose when it was not readily apparent that the animal was actually dead at the point of processing, though state officials later determined that the animal was indeed deceased.
According to sources, the video was shared with prosecutors, the Tewksbury Board of Health, Tewksbury Police Department and beyond.
According to one source, the video has a caption that reads “how to tell when the ham is done,” and audio of people described as “hooting and hollering” during the process. However, it has also been suggested that there may be some cultural significance to the chanting. Oliveira provides custom slaughter for several ethnic and religious groups.
Dinis Oliveira and his associate Freddy Menjivar have been charged with animal cruelty for the decapitation of a cow by chains and a Bobcat on Nov. 1, 2019, and are currently under review by the Tewksbury Board of Health for violations of an order of conditions for the keeping of animals, and a waiver to operate a custom slaughterhouse in Tewksbury.
News of the video comes on the heels of the pre-trial hearing for the two on Dec. 19 in Lowell District Court. On the same day, the Tewksbury Board of Health heard from one of Oliveira’s attorneys about the progress the operation it was making in addressing violations that had been identified by both the Tewksbury Board of Health and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Oliveira’s compliance and election hearing is scheduled for Feb. 5, 2020 in Lowell District Court.
According to Raymond Barry, chairperson of the Tewksbury Board of Health, the conclusion reached by state officials who reviewed the video confirmed that, while disturbing, the video does show the pig in the dehairing process.
Barry stated that “for those unfamiliar with the processing of animals, the process can appear gruesome” and underscored that this is why the board had laid out conditions to restrict access of the slaughtering process to only employees of the farm. Barry indicated that it is not clear if the persons who were taking the video were inside of a designated area or not.
Barry reinforced to the Crier that anyone suspecting animal cruelty of any kind in the community should immediately contact the Animal Control Officers at 978-640-4395. The ACOs have the legal authority to investigate criminal acts, and are able to follow up to determine if charges should be brought.