Inspectors are killed––cattle are not
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2000:
WALLULA, Wash.; WILMINGTON,
N.C.; LONDON, U.K.; SAN LEANDRO,
Calif.––Undercover video obtained by
the Humane Farming Association of shackled
and hoisted cattle having their legs hacked off
and being skinned alive at the Iowa Beef
Processors [IBP] slaughterhouse in Wallula,
Washington, showed KING-TV/Seattle and
KRON-TV/San Francisco viewers on May 24
that high-speed production methods may have
made the Humane Slaughter Act of 1958 more
an unenforced suggestion than a rule.
USDA inspector Gary Dahl and
retired USDA inspector Joe Doyle confirmed
on KING-TV camera that the video showed
exactly what it seemed to show.
“That one definitely is blinking,”
Doyle said, watching as butchery of an inadequately
stunned steer began. “There’s one with
the tongue hanging, kicking.”
Added Dahl, “That’s definitely alive.
That’s terrible. That animal was fully conscious
and aware of the environment. That was
torture––cruel, unnecessary, and criminal.”
Narrated KING-5 chief investigator
Duane Pohlman, “Enforcement of the Humane
Slaughter Act falls on the USDA, but the truth
is, the USDA doesn’t have enough inspectors,
so the act often goes unenforced.”
In addition, unidentified USDA staff
told Pohlman, inspectors who try to stop production
lines over inadequate stunning tend to
be reprimanded or transferred.
Seventeen mostly Spanish-speaking
IBP employees furnished signed affidavits to
HFA indicating that up to 30% of the cattle
slaughtered at the plant are inadequately
stunned. HFA presented the affidavits and
video to Washington state attorney general
Christine Gregoire on May 31.
Washington governor Gary Locke
ordered an immediate investigation. But when
the results of a June 8 joint state/federal inspection
were released, Washington state veterinarian
Robert Mead said he was satisfied that all
the animals he saw “were rendered unconscious
at the very beginning of slaughter.”
Washington Agriculture Department
head Jim Jesernig said, “The team witnessed
nothing that would warrant immediate action.”
IBP attributed the video and affidavits
to the aftermath of a labor dispute.
Aired at meal time
Belcross Farms production manager
Russell Crawford, 31, and former worker
Raymond Sanchez, age unknown, were in
May convicted of cruelty in North Carolina for
beating, skinning, and partially dismembering
a live pig in January 1999. A third defendant,
Kelly Brown, 30, is facing trial.
That incident was captured on video
during an undercover probe by People for the
Ethical Treatment of Animals. Public Access
Channel 4 of Wilmington ran the video, sight
unseen, at 6:30 p.m. on June 22. The video
reached Time Warner Cable subscribers in New
Hanover County––one of the top hog-producing
counties in the U.S.
“If it had been reviewed completely,
it would not have aired,” Time Warner
spokesperson Marty Feurer told callers.
“People like to trust in the term
‘humane slaughter,’ believing that farm animals
are gently and caringly put to sleep,” said Compassion in World Farming Trust political and legal director Peter Stevenson, releasing a June 15 report documenting similar mayhem on British meat production lines.
“In reality,” Stevenson continued, “animals are hustled through modern abattoirs at such great speed that many are not properly stunned and some actually recover consciousness from the stun as they are dying.”
The CIWF reviewed the slaughter of cattle, hogs, and poultry.
Decades of warnings about weaknesses in the USDA system that allow meat plant managers to bully inspectors were punctuated on June 22 in San Leandro, California, when Santos Linguisa sausage factory owner Stuart Charles Alexander, 39, used 9- millimeter and .38-caliber handguns kept in his office to dispatch USDA compliance officers Tom Quadros, 52, and Jeannie Hillery, 56, along with California Department of Food and Agriculture inspector Bill Shaline, 57.
A second state inspector, Earl Willis, age not stated, was outside getting a camera. Alexander reportedly also chased and shot at Willis before returning inside to fire more bullets into the dead inspectors’ bodies.
Arrested at the scene, Alexander was charged with three counts of murder. The Santos Linguisa plant had been repeatedly cited for failing to cook meat at a temperature high enough to kill bacteria. Alexander, meanwhile, had been sued on June 21 for alleged nonrepayment of a $60,000 loan.
Quadros, a 27-year USDA staffer, had entered the Santos Linguisa plant with a police escort on March 9, due to past confrontations with Alexander. Seventeen minutes before the killings Quadros called for a police backup that never came.
USDA officials said it was the first time that meat inspectors had been killed in such an incident, although seven USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service personnel were killed in the April 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City by convicted anti-government terrorist Timothy McVeigh.
But Peggy Larson, DVM, met both physical threats and harassment from superiors, she said, when she tried to enforce the Humane Slaughter Act and sanitation rules as a USDA meat inspector from 1979 to 1984. Earning a law degree after leaving the USDA, she sued the agency and won satisfaction––although technically she dropped the case––when two of her ex-supervisors were fired. A N I M A L PEOPLE published her account of the case in July/August 1993 (online at ).
Abuses like those Larson described are still going on, charged 20 public interest groups in a June 1 joint letter to Food Safety and Inspection Service chief Thomas Billy. The letter was authored by Felicia Nestor of the Washington D.C.-based Government Accountability Project. Nestor quoted inspectors who said they were subjected to intimidation tactics after Cox Newspapers in February 2000 published their allegations that two Gold Kist poultry plants in Alabama often made chicken carcasses with scabs, sores, and pus wounds into nuggets for school use.
Ruling for Supreme Beef Processors, of Dallas, Federal District Judge A. Joe Fish on May 25 ruled that tests of randomly selected meat showing salmonella contamination cannot be used to close a meat plant. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, salmonella kills about 500 Americans per year and causes up to four million illness episodes.
The Supreme Beef case was the first in which the USDA tried to close a plant under new inspection regulations adopted in 1996. Finding salmonella at Supreme Beef three times in November 1999, the USDA cancelled orders placed with Supreme Beef for school lunch hamburger, but Fish issued a restraining order keeping the USDA from enforcing a closure order.
A few weeks later Supreme Beef had to recall nine tons of hamburger because the lethal e-coli b a c t e r i a strain O157:H7 was found in it. The strain is especially deadly to children.