It’s always deeply disturbing to see the mistreatment of animals, but there’s something even worse when the victims are babies and seem so utterly vulnerable and frightened. Today, The HSUS released results of our latest investigation of modern agribusiness—in which one of our people went undercover for seven weeks at Bushway Packing, Inc. of Grand Isle, Vt. The plant specializes in slaughtering some of the rejects of the dairy industry—namely, the male calves who obviously cannot be used for milk production, nor as breeding stock.
The calves are taken away from their mothers at birth and sent, as mere infants, to the slaughter plant for immediate slaughter—to be used as “bob veal.” Without their mothers to nourish them, they are in a weakened state—hungry, lonely, confused, frightened, and, in some cases, unable to stand or walk.
Our investigator documented the kicking, slapping, and electric prodding of downer calves in the pre-slaughter area—violations of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. Our person on the inside then recorded inhumane stunning of the animals, and the hacking up and skinning of still-conscious calves.
Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture shut down the plant after seeing The HSUS’s footage and announced the initiation of a thorough investigation.
"The deplorable scenes recorded in the video released by the Humane Society of the United States are unequivocally unacceptable,” said U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement today. “The callous behavior and attitudes displayed in the video clearly appear to be violations of USDA's humane handling regulations.”
Roger Allbee, the head of Vermont’s agriculture department, offered a similar denunciation.
After reviewing the undercover footage obtained by the HSUS investigator in August and September 2009, animal scientists Dr. Temple Grandin and Kurt Vogel pronounced that, “the handling practices and attention to insensibility at this plant are unacceptable and must improve.”
Early last year, The HSUS exposed the routine abuse of downed cows at a California slaughter plant, which was the number two supplier to the National School Lunch Program. That investigation prompted the largest meat recall in U.S. history and led to a new federal regulation that banned the slaughter of downer cattle, but left open a loophole for downer calves. Subsequent investigations in four states revealed other abuses of downers.
Today, we blow the lid off the abuse of these infant calves—some of them, downers, too. We’ll have more to say on this case on Monday, but here’s our full release today and our video.