NEWS- Porc-quoi? Officials ask USDA for answers
Both Senator George Allen and U.S. Representative Virgil Goode have asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture for an explanation of the events that occurred September 12 in a predawn raid in Buckingham County. But contrary to what the Hook reported in its October 5 "Boar war" cover story, a USDA spokesman says the agency is not conducting an internal investigation of its handling of the slaughter of 79 Russian boars at the Willis River hunting preserve.
On the morning of the raid, game wardens arrested former cop/bow-hunting pro Danny Henshaw on misdemeanor charges of having an illegal hunting enclosure, a business he had openly run and advertised for 16 years.
The Russian wild boars in his preserve were simultaneously quarantined and killed– and then tested for pseudorabies, a highly contagious swine disease that does not affect humans. Critics have criticized the government operation as "heavy handed," and some are planning a public protest.
The Office of the Inspector General, which investigates internal affairs for the USDA, "has no involvement or investigation regarding this incident," says USDA-OIG deputy counsel Paul Feeney.
USDA agents were working for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services when they conducted the drug bust-like raid, which included the slaughter of "Cupid" and "Valentine," pet pigs Cindi Henshaw had raised from birth and kept in a separate enclosure from the hunting preserve boars.
"I am very saddened by your situation, especially by the loss of your pet pigs," Congressman Goode wrote to Henshaw. "If no tests were run on these pet pigs, I would like to know why tests were not needed," Goode wrote in a separate letter to the USDA.
State and federal agents set up camp for 11 days at Willis River, left pools of blood at the 100-acre preserve, and hauled off the boars in open stock trailers, according to the Henshaws.
The incident has sparked outrage among citizens already dubious of USDA handling of contagious diseases. The Granny Warriors, a group concerned with the rights of animal owners, is staging a protest October 24 at USDA offices in Richmond.
According to information received by Cindi Henshaw, of the 79 hogs killed, 42 were tested for pseudorabies, and 15 came back positive.However, the couple were not allowed to take their own blood samples from their pigs. "I do not believe for one second that our pigs were diseased," maintains Cindi Henshaw.
Danny and Cindi Henshaw mourn the loss of their pet pigs, Cupid and Valentine, at the pen where they were shot.
FILE PHOTO BY WILL WALKER