Slaughterhouse Shake-Up

By on January 31, 2008 with 0 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

It’s been a hectic 24 hours since The HSUS released the results of a lengthy investigation into a California dairy cow slaughterhouse, operating under the banner of Hallmark Meat Packing and Westland Meat Co. (ironically honored as a USDA "supplier of the year" for 2004-2005). The Washington Post did the first reporting on the issue, and then I conducted a press conference at our downtown Washington, D.C. office, which was packed with reporters. I was joined at the press conference by Dr. Michael Greger, a medical doctor and HSUS’s director of public health and animal agriculture. Eric Sakach, HSUS’s West Coast regional director, simultaneously led a Los Angeles press conference at our Hollywood Office, which was also packed with television cameras.

Downed cow prodded in face at California slaughterhouse
© The HSUS

Upton Sinclair, in reference to his book The Jungle, said "I aimed at the public’s heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach." Well, our video, which has now been broadcast across the world and been viewed by millions, has hit people in the stomach, and that’s where it was aimed. We think Americans and others need to see the harsh reality for what passes as “humane handling” and slaughter by some companies in this country. Only if people of conscience see these images will they get outraged and demand change.

Dozens of television stations did solid and compelling reporting on the issue, but here are a few of the most thorough news treatments: the CBS Evening News, KGO-TV in San Francisco, ABC 7 of Los Angeles, and FOX 5 right here in Washington.

As the story gained traction and millions of Americans learned about the cruelty, the new Agriculture Secretary, Ed Schafer (just on his second day on the job), issued a statement and announced the suspension of the agency’s contract with Westland Meat Co. The USDA also announced that it was involving its Inspector General and sending a team of investigators that very day to the plant. In addition, throughout the day, Sens. Richard Durbin, Barbara Boxer, Daniel Akaka, and Tom Harkin and Reps. Gary Ackerman, Peter DeFazio, and Rosa DeLauro issued calls for action and statements condemning the cruelty and related food safety threats, especially to children.

Downed cow pushed with forklift at California slaughterhouse
© The HSUS

We are still working to get the San Bernardino District Attorney’s Office to take enforcement action. That office is charged with enforcing state law, and the footage that we released shows clear violations of the state anti-cruelty statute and the state “no downer” law. Please write or call the San Bernardino District Attorney and politely ask him to take action and prosecute those responsible. You can reach him at 909-382-3660.

Finally, I want to say thanks to our undercover investigator who toiled for weeks at the slaughterhouse and documented the conduct of the people working there. He must remain nameless to preserve his identity for future investigations, but his bravery and ability to document what was going on may help have a transformative effect not only on the behavior of this company and other slaughterhouses, but on the consciousness of the American public. Bravo to you.

Farm Animals

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