Almost everyone in America knows about The HSUS’s investigation of the Hallmark/Westland Meat Company—an undercover hidden camera inquiry that triggered the shutdown of the plant, the nation’s largest beef recall, the first-ever cruelty charges against slaughterhouse workers, and, just last week, an announcement from the USDA that it would ban any processing of downer cattle.
I wrote in the blog a few weeks ago about a follow-up investigation we did at livestock auctions and stockyards—the intermediate markets where cattle are bought and sold, and moved between farm and slaughter plants. We visited auctions in four states, and found downers in distress at all of the locations we investigated.
On Wednesday of this week, the Maryland Department of Agriculture charged the operator of the Westminster Livestock Auction Market in Maryland with four counts of violating state animal health regulations. The charges are a result of our bringing the case of a suffering downer cow to light in late April. “After investigating this matter, the agency believes that the market was not prepared to handle downer animals that night and as a result a ‘downer’ cow was not treated in a humane manner,” said Agriculture Secretary Roger Richardson. “Mr. Horak has been charged with violating the State’s Animal Health Law.”
We are proud that our investigations trigger such important follow-up and hold people who harm animals accountable for their actions. And we are grateful for the state Agriculture Secretary’s action.
We have had lots of feedback from blog readers on the subject, and here are a few of your posts.
Thank you HSUS for all the hundreds of hours you have put into the "downer" cow issue. The USDA decision to enact law preventing downer cows from entering the food chain is a victory. Yet I sit and look into the eyes of the obviously and terribly abused cow whose photo is on today’s blog and am at a complete loss as to how we can allow agribusiness to treat animals so badly that they end up in this condition. The safety of our food supply is critical, no doubt. And the practice of using torture to force a cow to stand is insane. But it is the heartless neglect and cruel treatment of these animals in the first place that results in their final inability to even stand. Those eyes, that look of terror and pain. Waiting until the animals are at that level of distress to intervene is unconscionable. —Connie Pugh, Sunnyvale, Calif.
I would like to congratulate The Humane Society of the United States for their victory in stopping the inhumane treatment of downer cows. These animals need to die with dignity and not abusive actions. I am proud to be a member of your Society. Keep up the good work as animals need you desperately. —Heather Mepham, Canada
Thanks to people like The HSUS who are willing and have the know-how to help these animals. You can look into a cow’s beautiful eyes and see their soul. How dare anyone mistreat such a docile animal! I cried every time I saw or thought about the footage. I can’t imagine not feeling well and having someone torture me, and force me up on my feet. It is inexcusable. Thank you HSUS for all you do for animals. —Manon Hanewich
This is hopeful news. Though I am vegan, I worry about what my omnivorous family and friends may be consuming. It’s a fight to protect my loved ones as well as relieve animal suffering. This is the first step in the right direction. Again, thank you for all you’ve done in this matter. —Lisa J.
Please stop the suffering of downed animals… cows, pigs, goats, horses and all farm animals. The inhumanities the animals go through at the last moments of their lives is simply cruel. The animals must go through so much suffering and pain. Their tears are silent and their hearts are broken. Animals can teach us so much about love and loyalty; yet, these slaughterhouses kill them in such horrific and vicious ways. There must be a permanent law that forbids these horrible attacks and abuse on the downed animals and this includes all farm animals. —Elvira
Thirty years ago I lived in Chino, Calif. I would go to the horse auction trying to save horses from the meat man. At that time I would see the cows and calves left to die after the hot day auctions. I could never understand how people could let this happen. I would try and help the babies, offering them water, trying to get someone to help them, and I was always told to leave. Actually ran off by the cattlemen and told not to come back. I could not get anyone to listen to me. I have to say, I was young, and I gave up. God bless you for what you have done. —JoAnn Costanzo
You and your staff are to be congratulated for persevering on this critical issue. You put an unbearably cruel practice in the national spotlight—and this could not have been easy. People don’t like to see the sordid consequences of their dietary choices. Thanks to HSUS, the tide is slowly turning! —Pamela Vesilind
This is wonderful news and a relief for so many of us who have been concerned about downed livestock for so many years. We so often are made aware of cruelty in underdeveloped nations, but many Americans have not been aware of this particular problem until now. Thanks to the USDA for doing the decent thing. —Betsy Rogers
The whole situation is really heartbreaking. I like steak. I am not a vegetarian. But it is so disturbing to realize the terrible situation we are discussing. Cows and other animals too sick to slaughter? What kind of crazy world is this? One issue is that we are slaughtering millions of animals for wasteful consumption. Supermarkets surely don’t even sell all of the meat they have on the shelves. So animals are slaughtered not just for food, but to stock shelves and have the appearance of good inventory. Second issue is why are these poor creatures "downers"? Do they not receive any medical attention in their lives? Why are they becoming ill and lame? Are they living in such deplorable conditions that this is so commonplace? It is so, so sad, and what an awful reflection on our society. —Jen
A grateful thanks to HSUS for their courageous work. A second thanks to Sec. Shafer. It’s about time we had a real independent Secretary working for us, not one who is "bought and sold" by the meat industry. The treatment of all consumed animals in the U.S. factory farming venue is atrocious. I quit eating meat 20 years ago as an educated consumer, thanks to a friend. I am an elementary school teacher now and pass on my knowledge to my students and their parents. This is the way that change is made. —Bill Baillie
All I have to say is BRAVO, BRAVO, BRAVO to The HSUS undercover team!!! You ROCK! —Pamela Bertsch, Texas
I would like to say that today is my birthday and I couldn’t have asked for a better gift. I’m very excited that this ban was effective today and this will be a birthday I will never forget. Thank you to The HSUS for all that you do; keep up the good work! —Alicia Zinz