The 18-wheeler looked as common as any semi anywhere: White trailer, green cab. Unmarked. It was parked, backed in, on the 20-acre property of Lory Yazurlo’s Pig Tales Sanctuary since Monday morning. But there was nothing common about it. At least not on this particular job.
The semi was a hired gas chamber.
It was there to receive Yazurlo’s corralled pigs, all 400 of them–the remnants of twice that number at the sanctuary’s peak several years ago. The pigs were to be stacked inside, up to 200 at a time, gassed, and delivered to a crematorium in Starke, their carcasses to a facility in Starke, the same town where the state executes inmates on death row.
- County Endorses Federal Recommendation To Kill All 400 Pigs at Yazurlo’s Sanctuary
- Court Orders County to Take Over Custody and Fate of 400 Swine in Bunnell Pig Sanctuary
- County Court’s Sentencing Order
- USDA’s Recommendation to Euthanize
- Craig Coffey’s Letter to the State Attorney and the USDA’s Report
- Lory Yazurlo’s Pig Tales Website
By Tuesday evening, all 400 pigs are scheduled to have been executed. Yazurlo tried to win what amounted to a literal stay of execution for the pigs she’s cared for since 1995. She was unable to find a lawyer who could stop what turned into a rapid, virtually unstoppable process once a county court last week signed a sentencing order turning the pigs’ custody to Flagler County. The order stated that attempts to correct matters of neglect and public health on the property had failed.
In 2008, five pigs tested positive for pseudorabies virus, which affects animals but not humans. The United States Department of Agriculture said it suspected that some of the pigs would test positive for brucellosis, which is infectious and contagious to humans, and debilitating. But no pig at the sanctuary has ever, in fact, tested positive for the disease. Nor were the pigs being tested medically in any form Monday or Tuesday before being led to the gas chamber. They were only being counted, Mark Fagan, a spokesman with the Florida Department of Agriculture’s Division of Plant Industry, said. County, state and federal authorities will not have documented evidence that allegations they made about the pigs’ danger to humans, from infectious diseases, were accurate. In essence, authorities were destroying evidence.
The problem went beyond allegations of disease, however. The USDA said the pigs were chronically neglected, and neighbors complained about pigs escaping the sanctuary and ending up on their properties. Innumerable pigs were shot by neighbors.
Monday evening during a meeting of the county commission, County Administrator Craig Coffey briefed the commission on the ongoing euthanization, speaking for just two minutes about the matter and describing it as a “tough decision” compelled by public health concerns. None of the commissioners spoke until later, when Barbara Revels said there hadn’t been “a stone left unturned” to do the humane thing for the animals. Commissioner Alan Peterson said: “This wasn’t a snap decision, something that was done on the spur of the moment. This has been an issue for several years.” He added: “Every effort was made to attempt to solve a difficult problem.”
Earlier in the meeting, Charlene Yazurlo, Lory’s mother, filled the three minutes she was given during the public comment portion of the meeting to rebuff characterization of her daughter as neglectful (“I’ve always been exceptionally angry at anyone who’s ever accused her of neglect”) and speak of what she said John Wayne would have described as her “true grit.” Yazurlo quoted from Ecclesiastes (Man’s fate is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; man has no advantage over the animal”). She reminded the commission of a torrent of outrage from around the world–a torrent commissioners themselves have been privy to: by afternoon, they’d received some 450 emails from around the world (but few, if any, from Flagler County) objecting to the impending executions.
But Yazurlo was also resigned to the inevitable. “I was going to invite everyone involved to watch these pigs be executed,” she said. “Of course, that’s too late.” One other person addressed the matter, Marlene Walker, who decried the effects of the euthanization will have on the county’s image. “This is not the kind of thing that you do and present to the world to say something positive about your county,” Walker said.
Authorities had barred Lory Yazurlo from the sanctuary since Sunday, in preparation for the operation that began Monday morning. Fagan, the Department of Agriculture’s spokesman, described the process:
“We began the process by building corrals, corralled all the population in one area. They were fed, to make them comfortable. A ramp was put in place. They then built a route to where they can kind of go in single file. They’ll be inventoried as they go on to the truck. Once they’re on the truck and the truck is sealed, CO2”–that is, carbon dioxide–“is then going to be released. That is the gas that will euthanize them. They’ll slowly go to sleep. By the time they get to Starke, about an hour-10 minutes’ drive, they’ll be off-loadded into a disposal facility where they’ll be cremated.
“They’re estimating that the if the group is going to be small pigs, then they will probably get as many as 200 on the truck. If it’s the larger one of course it’ll be less, so they’re going to estimate between 100 and 200 per trip. They’re planning on making three trips to Starke, one today and two tomorrow. We should be finished and done with our part of this by tomorrow afternoon.”
Eight staffers from the state’s veterinary services and its counterpart with the United States Department of Agriculture were at the sanctuary Monday afternoon. The Flagler County Humane Society had fed the pigs in the morning. It will feed the remaining pigs again Tuesday morning, “so they’ll be calm and comfortable in the process of uploading into the truck,” Fagan said.
The gas is not released when the truck is stationary, at the sanctuary, but as its driving to its destination. The pigs, in other words, are being executed as the truck is driving east on State Road 100, which leads to Starke.