Calif. slaughterhouse suspended amid animal-abuse investigation

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Federal regulators suspended operations at a central California slaughterhouse on Monday following the release of graphic undercover video from an animal-rights group. The video, filmed by Compassion Over Killing, allegedly showed dairy cows being repeatedly shocked and shot before being slaughtered.  

The Associated Press reports that USDA officials shut down the Central Valley Meat Co. in Hanford, Calif., in response to the undercover video, filmed over a two-week period in June. With at least two USDA inspectors stationed at the site during normal operation, some have speculated whether these inspectors neglected their duties. Federal officials point that the investigation is still ongoing, but further action will be taken if necessary.

In a company statement, Central Valley Meat Co. reported that they “were extremely disturbed to be informed by the USDA that ... our plant could not operate based upon a videotape that was provided to the Department by a third party group that alleged inhumane treatment of animals on our property."

Animal-handling expert Temple Grandin said some of the major issues in the video can be attributed to the poor condition of the animals arriving at the plant. 

“I urge the dairy industry to market their cows before they become weak and extremely debilitated,” Grandin said in an article on Read more.

Here is a statement from animal-care expert Dave Daley, associate dean for the College of Agriculture at California State University and an active member of the cattle community:

 “The vast majority of cattlemen stand firm in adhering to the absolute best animal care and handling guidelines established by veterinarians and other experts. We do not condone any mishandling of livestock on the farm or ranch or in the packing facility. In fact, we firmly believe that those knowingly and willfully committing any abuse to animals should not be in the business – period. The actions depicted in these videos are disgraceful and not representative of the cattle community.

 “U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors have a very serious responsibility and obligation to make certain that packing plants are vigorously following the guidelines in place that ensure animal care from pasture to plate. Cattlemen put their livestock above their own needs and truly develop a bond with the land and livestock. Cattlemen work hard every day to give animals the proper care and handling they deserve and expect proper treatment to continue after they leave America’s family farms and ranches.

 “This is exactly why the farmer and rancher code of conduct within Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) has been in place since 1996 and condemns the mistreatment of animals. We believe any individual who witnesses inappropriate animal treatment is responsible for making every effort to stop it immediately. Anyone who mistreats animals must be reported immediately and should be punished in accordance with the law. We must work together to put a stop to any abuse.”

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Janet Weeks V    
Sacramento, CA  |  August, 21, 2012 at 12:27 PM

Animal abuse is rampant in US slaughterhouses/meat packing plants with tens of thousands of animals being slaughtered while still conscious every day. Just read Slaughterhouse:The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry by Gail Eisnitz or Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of Sight by Timothy Pachirat to find out more. This abuse is NOT NEW! USDA officials are NOT doing their jobs to ensure the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act is being enforced. As if "humane" slaughter were even possible, right? Most people know there's no such thing. Nevertheless, the USDA and packing plant managers are not doing even the barest minimum to ensure the animals are insensible to pain when they're prematurely killed. Tens of millions of them are having their throats stuck, legs cut off, skin ripped off, or are boiled alive while fully conscious. USDA officials and meat packing plant managers have little, if any, regard for animals; the bottom line is all that matters.

August, 22, 2012 at 09:19 AM

Janet - You are clueless. Dont believe everything you read

August, 22, 2012 at 09:41 AM

I agree with David. You need to be reading some more credible sources.

CA  |  August, 22, 2012 at 09:58 AM

Janet- you really need to do some research. You have no idea what your talking about. Read a book!!!

phoenix, az  |  August, 22, 2012 at 10:36 AM

to Janet: maybe it would do you well to get out of Sacremento and visit a couple of the facilities to see what actually does happen and the process!! Rampant?? Really??

Wisconsin.  |  August, 22, 2012 at 10:41 AM

I've watched a few of these animal abuse videos and by and large many of the abuses shown are at the hands of the animal rights group members themselves. Never the less these videos bring up two very important issues. One is the quality of labor working in places such as slaughterhouses and on farms. Those who pretend to care are usually the last people we will find caring for animals. The second is the the unabashed use of the media to show people something that they have no clue about. The vast majority of the population know nothing of agriculture except for allegations of abuse and environmental destruction.

Iowa  |  August, 22, 2012 at 10:46 AM

Janet-better yet go and watch at a slaughter plant. Animals are unconcious and dead before any of what you said happens. The only slaughter that I know of where the animal is consious while having throat cut is "Kosher" which is why I do not eat Kosher meats.

MN  |  August, 22, 2012 at 11:02 AM

Right on Patrick.

Michigan  |  August, 22, 2012 at 01:32 PM

To Janet--Anything that dies a sudden death, which is what happens in a slaughter yard, the muscles continue to contract until their energy source is used up. At this point rigor mortis sets in. That is the technical term for a stiff body. The throat of the animal is slit while the animals muscles are contracting to allow for the blood to drain from the animal which makes the meat taste better. The animal is dead, it has no brain function and no feeling. The best sources for accurate information come from academia that is peer reviewed. Dr. Temple Grandin has done a lot of research and worked with slaughter yards to make them more animal friendly.

Washington, DC  |  August, 22, 2012 at 01:39 PM

I agree with Janet. While it may not be the rule, this type of thing shouldn't be happening at ALL. Take a look at this video and tell me this is the kind of meat you want fed to our nation's children.

California  |  August, 22, 2012 at 07:59 PM

Janet, You paint a lot of slaughter houses with a wide brush. When was the last time you were in a slaughter house? Get off the internet and see for your self. I had a tour of our local slaughter house and I was amazed at how the whole process was professional and painless. Educate yourself, THEN speak your mind.

CA  |  August, 22, 2012 at 08:02 PM

West, It is not above some AR Groups to edit video or withhold video for their own agenda.

CA  |  August, 22, 2012 at 08:12 PM

Early Wednesday morning animal handling expert Temple Grandin issued a statement saying while there were some unacceptable practices in the video, she took issues with some of the statements in the voice-over narration. "Statements in the video that captive bolt guns do not work to make animals insensible to pain are not true. One gun observed appeared to be brand new and state of the art. However, all guns are precision machinery that must be cleaned and maintained every day in order to operate effectively," said Grandin. She went on to say, "In general, the narration of the video misleads the viewer into thinking some things are happening that are not. For example, the cattle in the video are properly stunned with one exception that I observed. Properly stunned, unconscious and insensible livestock will exhibit some reflexive kicking, especially of the unrestrained rear leg, after they have been stunned. This is normal and occurs because the brain is no longer in control. In fact you can remove the head and the legs will still kick violently. In addition, one animal that showed a trembling head while coming off a conveyor was actually having what is called a 'tonic spasm' and was clearly insensible as evidenced by its floppy tongue hanging out."

Ottawa, Canada  |  August, 22, 2012 at 10:29 PM

Abigail- you're right about everything except one thing. The slitting of the throat is what kills the animal (as well as removes the blood from the meat). It's called exsanguination. With a captive bolt, the animal is rarely dead, but is unconscious. The brain becomes damaged immediately so it can't function and pain sensation can't be transferred to the brain. Therefore, the cow is insensible to the slaughter process. I haven't seen the video, but it sounds like once again poor representatives of the dairy/livestock industry. I agree, the industry on a whole does everything it can to ensure animal welfare is a priority. That's why the major slaughter plants are choosing to become "Temple Grandin certified" by adopting her cattle handling practices. Unfortunately, in all sectors of the livestock industry, there are bad apples which make everyone look bad. And that's the one benefit of animal rights groups...they work to expose these (people). Even though the majority of the industry does good, it's still inexcusable that a small percentage of animals have to suffer. We in the industry have to remain on our toes and keep working to improve animal welfare.

Arizona  |  August, 22, 2012 at 11:29 PM

This is absolutely abuse! It is horrible human beings do this to animals. There are so many cases around the world of abuse an example is PETA’s campaign to free Mali, the lone elephant at the decrepit and barren Manila Zoo? The president of the Philippines recently issued a directive stating that she should be transferred to a sanctuary, and PETA are working to gather public support behind the initiative and expedite her transfer. Please sign this petition to give Mali a second chance at life!

pa  |  August, 23, 2012 at 06:47 AM

Janet Weeks, You describe ABORTION very well. I hope that you are supporter of PRO-LIFE. Are you?????

Bea Elliott    
Florida  |  August, 23, 2012 at 09:41 AM

I see the USDA found the infractions and violations sufficient enough to end it's contract with Central Valley. Now - For all those who have said the USDA is doing a good job --- Surely you must agree with their decision. And the conclusion it insinuates. Personally, I'm pleased that the investigation exposed to unknowing consumers (yet again) what nonhumans endure to become flesh on a plate. It's certainly nothing appetizing or ethical!

Janet Weeks V    
Sacramento, CA  |  August, 23, 2012 at 09:52 AM

There's one way to solve problems such as these. Please contact In-N-Out Burger, McDonalds, Costco, and the USDA and let them know that, in light of the recent Compassion Over Killing undercover expose showing horrific animal cruelty at one of their suppliers' slaughter facilities, video streaming is the only method by which they can provide consumer assurances and adequate proof that their animal welfare standards are consistently being met. The cost would be negligible compared to lost revenue if consumer confidence is not restored. If they refuse to lead the food industry by installing video cams, they’ll find themselves at the center of another investigation in 2013. In-N-Out's customer contact form: McDonald's customer contact form: Costco's customer contact form: CONFIGURATION=1000&PARTITION_ID=1&CMD=STARTPAGE&USERTYPE=1&LANGUAGE=en&COUNTRY=us USDA's contact form:

Janet Weeks V    
Sacramento, CA  |  August, 23, 2012 at 11:22 AM

I am called "clueless," told not to believe everything I read, and told to "read a book" for recommending two books for people wanting to learn the truth: Slaughterhouse:The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry by Gail Eisnitz or Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and the Politics of Sight by Timothy Pachirat. I have read books, several, in fact, and one in particular, published in 2012, which Dairyherd's darling, Temple Grandin, chose to review: Every Twelve Seconds: Industrialized Slaughter and and Politics of Sight by Timothy Pachirat. Temple Grandin, for those who do not know, designed what she termed a "Stairway to Heaven," the fenced passageway through which animals proceed in single file to the knocking box and eventual slaughter. (I prefer to call it a "Chute to Hell," but that's beside the point.)

Janet Weeks V    
Sacramento, CA  |  August, 23, 2012 at 11:23 AM

Here is part of what Ms. Grandin had to say: "Pachirat describes all the sights, sounds and smells he encountered from the day he entered the plant until he left, taking in everything from employee locker rooms to tail removal and interaction with workers and management. He makes the interesting observation that even within the plant, the killing of the cattle was compartmentalised; when he worked in the chilled cooler, he was far away from where the cattle were dispatched. His tone throughout is mostly neutral, until he discusses the treatment of live cattle and the unethical things he was asked to do when he worked in quality control, which is responsible for food-safety compliance. "The treatment of the cattle Pachirat witnessed was atrocious. His supervisor constantly swore and ordered him to poke the electric prod in animals' anuses. ... "I read with great interest Pachirat's description of this plant's ostensible use of the animal-welfare auditing system that I had authored. The head of quality assurance would fill in the welfare audit forms while sitting in her office because it made her sad to watch the cattle. I have been in three other plants where quality-assurance staff did not complete the required audits and faked the paperwork. In each, handling was bad and quality-assurance staff were powerless to stop animal abuse because upper management did not care. ... "In turning away as cattle are killed for our tables, we condemn animals to suffer," says Temple Grandin.

Jonathan Gilbert    
Minneapolis  |  August, 23, 2012 at 11:44 AM

Well said Janet Weeks. Ya gotta love how all the abuse apolgists rant.

Joe Dairyman    
USA  |  August, 23, 2012 at 11:15 PM

Why does the public that eats food every day think that some how there is a better way to slaughter cows. These animal right vegetarian activist just show you what they want and twist it to look worse than it really is. Then you have ABC news acting like it horrible. It's time companies like Mc Donald's & IN N OUT Burger stand up against these activist who made video. It's not the slaughter house that may or may not cost you sales. It's the guy Vito the camera. MC Donald's & IN N OUT you really think that another packing house would be different. I read that USDA has not found any problems yet USDA closes it down. Slaughtering cows been going on for a long long time. It's time the public went with out food for a while.

Joe Dairyman    
USA  |  August, 23, 2012 at 11:45 PM

Is the 90% of the public that eats some kind meat everyday going to listen a vegetarian who narrates this video. These people are just driving up the cost meat. And public is ignorant enough to go along with it.

Janet Weeks V    
Sacramento, CA  |  August, 24, 2012 at 12:04 PM

Yes, they are, and the sooner the dairy and meat industries--and the USDA--wise up and clean up their act, the better. "The videotape contains images so vile that many news organizations feel they can only show brief snippets. After all, who wants to witness a dairy cow enduring a slow and agonizing death, thrashing about and bleeding after being shot over and over again with a pneumatic gun that can’t seem to render her unconscious? Who wants to see an apparently still conscious cow being lifted up by one leg via a conveyor as she writhes in agony? "But, WATCH WE MUST. It’s vital for all of us to bear witness to injustice. It’s also the responsibility of journalists to expose injustice wherever it appears, no matter how inconvenient or unappetizing, no matter how powerless the victims. ... "Now, the U.S. government needs to investigate itself. What were the USDA inspectors stationed at the site doing? Why didn’t they spot the problem? Why did an animal welfare group have to do the USDA’s job for them? "Until the U.S. government develops integrity in this arena, consumers can’t assume the products they buy are made with integrity. So Caveat Emptor - buyer beware! If you don’t want to be a part of this horror, DON'T BUY MEAT PRODUCTS. It just might have to take a national meat boycott to get the USDA to clean up its act." -- Jane Velez-Mitchell

NJ  |  August, 24, 2012 at 03:52 PM

I read the company statement about "alleged" inhumane treatment of animals on our property. I decided to try to get a look at the video. If you Google, it will lead to a choice for who sent these sick cows to slaughter. Warning: I couldn't make it through the whole video, the disregard for life is appalling. It's hard to believe this is a one time occurrence at this plant and it makes you wonder what goes on at other slaughterhouses. Tofu sounds better all the time.

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