Mercy for Animals exposes California slaughterhouse

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  September 2012:

HANFORD, Calif.–The Central Valley Meat Company in Hanford, California, specializing in slaughtering “retired” dairy cows, reopened on August 27, 2012, just seven days after it was closed by the USDA Office of Inspector General, in response to abuses documented in June 2012 by a Mercy for Animals undercover operative.

Central Valley Meat reportedly supplied 20% to 30% of the beef used by the In-N-Out Burger chain, which cancelled purchasing from the slaughterhouse.  The USDS school lunch program and McDonald’s Corp. suspended purchases during the week-long closure. The Mercy for Animals video showed “workers pulling downed cows by their tails and kicking them in an apparent attempt to get them to stand and walk to slaughter,” described Associated Press farm writer Tracie Cone.  “Others shot downed cows in the head over and over as the cows thrashed on the ground.  In one instance, the video shows workers trying to get cattle to back out of a chute while repeatedly spraying them with water and shocking them.  One worker appears to be suffocating a cow by standing on her muzzle,” after a captive bolt gun failure.  The case is reminiscent,” Cone wrote, “of a 2008 undercover operation by the Humane Society of the U.S. at the Hallmark slaughter plant in Chino, California.”

That investigation led to the largest-ever beef recall, and to  the conviction of Hallmark staff for cruelty including prodding downed cows with a fork lift.

Colorado State University livestock handling and slaughter consultant Temple Grandin said the thrashing by cows after they were shot with the captive bolt gun was “normal,” and said it “occurs because the brain is no longer in control.”   But Grandin added that she “did observe some overly aggressive and unacceptable use of electric prods with non-ambulatory cattle.”  Electric prods, Grandin said, “must be used sparingly and never in the face or other sensitive areas.”

Both Grandin and former U.S. undersecretary of agriculture for food safety Richard Raymond called the Central Valley Meat Company case an example of why slaughterhouses should install and monitor their closed-circuit video cameras to ensure that staff follow proper procedures.

“Plants dealing with old culled dairy cows will be targeted forever,” Raymond said.  “Owners of these facilities should be required to provide 24/7 coverage and oversight.”   Also, Raymond said, “Dairy men need to do a better job of determining which cattle can make the final trip and remain ambulatory. As long as nearly one out of every 200 dairy cows are condemned at antemortem inspection, we are sending the activists way too many opportunities for footage.”

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