If These Walls Could Talk
On Saturday, I stopped by the now-shuttered Hallmark/Westland Meat Company in Chino, Calif. As you remember, this was the facility where an HSUS undercover investigator documented appalling abuses of downer dairy cows, triggering a series of major reactions including the closure of the plant.
HSUS footage broadcast abuse at Hallmark/Westland.
The only person there was a lone security guard, who would not leave his guard shack even though I had motioned to him to speak with me. I climbed on top of a wall on one side of the plant and looked upon the site. The structures and equipment were all there, but there were no people or cows. I looked at the pens where many of the downers had been abused. I saw the chute that led the animals into the kill box, at the lip of the large plant where the animals were then dismembered and packaged. I gazed at a covered area where I had remembered one downer cow had been tormented by placing a stream of water in her mouth to make her feel like she was drowning—in order to get her to stand up.
The plant was now abandoned because the public saw so much cruelty. There was silence there now because one brave young investigator documented what occurred there. It should serve as a reminder to everyone within the livestock industry that there must be accountability. Ignoring the rules, and disregarding the welfare of animals, has consequences.
I was also struck by the placement of this plant within the larger community. The plant is very close to residential areas, and it is in a business district, at the intersection of two neatly paved streets with brisk traffic on one side. Traffic bunched up at the light at the intersection, and the people who were stopped there would have hardly known that a slaughter plant was just to their right. There are some warehouses in the area, but there are office complexes too, with workers during the day going about their business. There is a brand new office building right adjacent to Hallmark/Westland.
I could only wonder what the neighbors thought. They had gone about their business with 500 animals being slaughtered every day, and 1,000 animals there at a time. They must have wondered if the smell would attach to their business suits. They had to think the odor was unpleasant. I wondered if they thought about the drama that was playing out every day for these cows.
Like slaughter plants, factory farms also make terrible neighbors. Just ask the Central Valley residents who announced last week that they will sue the Olivera Egg Ranch over the toxic pollution coming from the facility. This giant factory farm confines 600,000-700,000 hens in cramped, barren, wire cages and dumps the manure into multi-acre cesspools that release more than 100 pounds of ammonia every day.
The neighbors of Hallmark/Westland must now be happy that the plant is closed. It was quiet and peaceful, and there were no cows in sight, live or dead.
Addendum: The HSUS is now backing a major factory farming reform in California—Proposition 2. The Associated Press has a story about it today.