Last night, while I was doing email and watching Super Tuesday returns, an email from the USDA came in to my inbox. It was news I was anxiously awaiting.
"On Feb. 4, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) suspended inspection at Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company based on the establishment’s clear violation of Federal regulations and the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act," read the statement from Dr. Richard Raymond, Under Secretary for Food Safety for the USDA. "This Notice of Suspension is a regulatory course of action available when FSIS finds egregious violations of humane handling regulations."
© The HSUS
A downed cow at Hallmark Meat Packing.
Egregious violations indeed. Employees at Hallmark Meat Packing and Westland Meat Company were tormenting downed cows in an effort to get them to stand so they could walk into the kill box. It was one of the worst cases of cruelty to farm animals we’ve witnessed.
The USDA shutting down the slaughter plant is a major and relatively rare action by the agency. It speaks to the unambiguous and illegal behavior engaged in at the Chino-based plant that was the subject of a long-term undercover investigation by The HSUS. This is the latest action by the USDA after The HSUS turned over video from our investigation to the Agriculture Secretary. On the day that The HSUS broke the investigation, the USDA suspended its food procurement contracts with Westland Meat Company and announced a formal investigation to be handled by the Food Safety and Inspection Service and the Office of Inspector General.
The USDA has acted responsibly and swiftly since this controversy came to light. Now we hope the USDA continues its investigation and revisits its policy on the handling of downer cattle. It is time for the agency to close the loophole that allows some downers to be slaughtered. The Congress should also take action in the wake of the revelations made by The HSUS. It should pass the Downed Animal and Food Safety Protection Act and the Farm Animal Stewardship Purchasing Act. You can write to lawmakers through the links I’ve included here and urge them to adopt these needed reforms in an expeditious manner.