Diseased meat in our sick system. How can this be happening?
February 6, 2008
“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated… I hold that, the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man.” –Mahatma Gandhi
An investigation by the Humane Society at a cattle slaughterhouse has documented (watch video “No Mercy” here) that animals too sick or injured to stand or walk—called “downers” by industry—have been kicked, beaten, dragged with chains, shocked with electric prods, sprayed in the face with hoses and pushed by forklifts in efforts to get them to their feet to pass USDA inspection.
Along with the horror at the inhumanity of such acts, this unacceptable cruelty potentially puts the food supply at risk—at least 12 of the 15 identified cases of mad cow disease in North America to date have reportedly been downers.
The sick cows were mistreated at Hallmark Meatpacking, a slaughterhouse in California. Hallmark supplies the Westland Meat Co., a major supplier of meat to USDA food programs for needy families, the elderly, and to more than 100,000 schools and child-care programs through the National School Lunch Program.
Westland was named a USDA “supplier of the year” for 2004-2005. Over the past five years, Westland has sold about 100 million pounds of frozen beef, valued at $146 million, to the Agriculture Department’s commodities program.
Downed animals may be falling through the cracks as a result of poor oversight, anemic enforcement, and a loophole created by inconsistent agency regulations. The result is a losing proposition for animals who are beaten, kicked and dragged to their death and consumers who unknowingly consume the meat from sick and injured animals.
Westland’s president initially denied the allegations, later stating he was “shocked, saddened and sickened” by the footage. Two employees have been fired, and their supervisor has been suspended pending the investigation.