USDA officials have shut down Central Valley Meat Co., located in Hanford, Calif., after receiving a an undercover video showing alleged instances of animal abuse. The video came from Compassion over Killing, an animal welfare group that sent an undercover investigator to the slaughterhouse. The employee made the video over a two-week period in June.
The video shows dairy cows, some unable to walk, being repeatedly shocked and shot before being slaughtered, the Associated Press reports. In another instance, an employee is seen standing on a cow to suffocate it after an attempt to stun it failed. Another animal is seen fstill conscious and flailing after being shackled and sent to the slaughter area.
"USDA considers inhumane treatment of animals at slaughter facilities to be unacceptable and is conducting a thorough investigation into these allegations," said Justin DeJong, spokesman for the Food Safety Inspection Service.
"The horror caught on camera is sickening," said Erica Meier, executive director of Compassion Over Killing, based in Washington, D.C. "It's alarming that this is not only a USDA-inspected facility but a supplier to the USDA."
Online USDA records show the company has contracted to sell ground beef to USDA food programs.
Within hours of seeing the video, the USDA's Office of Inspector General sent investigators who found evidence of "egregious inhumane handling and treatment of livestock."
"FSIS suspended operations at the facility and is prepared to take further action as warranted by the investigation," DeJong said.
Central Valley Meat owners Brian and Lawrence Coelho did not comment directly about the video, which they had not seen. The company released a statement that said in part, “"We were extremely disturbed to be informed by the USDA that ... our plant could not operate based upon a videotape that was provided to the Department by a third party group that alleged inhumane treatment of animals on our property,"
Brian Coelho added, "Our company seeks not just to meet federal humane handling regulations, but exceed them."
Compassion Over Killing stated that it will release the footage on its website next Tuesday.
"It's a good sign that the USDA is taking this seriously, but I want to see what comes next," said Meier. "The footage clearly speaks for itself, but this is not an isolated incident. Investigation after investigation of these places is revealing cruelty."
Source: Associated Press