Down but Not Out

Earlier this week, the Humane Society released hidden-camera video taken in a California slaughterhouse that has explosive potential. The Washington Post had the story first on Wednesday, before the video was officially released, and reporter Rick Weiss described it as showing:

[W]orkers at a California slaughterhouse delivering repeated electric shocks to cows too sick or weak to stand on their own; drivers using forklifts to roll the ‘downer’ cows on the ground in efforts to get them to stand up for inspection; and even a veterinary version of waterboarding in which high-intensity water sprays are shot up animals’ noses.

And all before the USDA inspector showed up to work. Needless to say, these practices are clear violations of laws designed to protect animals and to keep unsafe meat out of the food supply. (Mad cow disease has been correlated with downer cows.) Temple Grandin, the famed slaughterhouse expert, said it was “one of the worst animal-abuse videos I have ever viewed.”

The footage was shot at Hallmark Meat Packing in Chino, California, which sells the meat to the Chino processor Westland Meat Company. In the last five years, Westland has sold over 100 million pounds of frozen ground beef to the USDA’s commodities program, which donates the food to school lunch programs. And here’s the kicker, according to the Post: “In the 2004-05 school year, the Agriculture Department honored Westland with its Supplier of the Year award for the National School Lunch Program.” The Los Angeles Times reported that only hours after the video’s release, the the USDA booted Westland from its food programs, and put a hold on any Westland products already in its inventory.

The Ethicurean’s Bonnie Powell was also on this story early, and her angry, pointed synopsis is a must-read. I’d stick very close to this blog for more on the subject.

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