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USDA Closes Slaughterhouse After Video Showing 'Sickening' Animal Cruelty

Common Dreams staff

Still from video taken by Compassion Over Cruelty.

Video documentation of "sickening" animal cruelty has prompted the USDA to suspend operations at a California slaughterhouse, another revelation of the industrial food system's cost to animal welfare and public health.

Video taken by an undercover worker from the DC-based animal advocacy organization Compassion Over Killing shows workers at the Central Valley Meat Co. (CVM) slaughterhouse in Hanford, Calif.  repeatedly abusing cows, treatment the group says violates state and federal animal welfare requirements. 

"The horror caught on camera is sickening," said Erica Meier, executive director of Compassion Over Killing.

The group details the mistreatment:

  • Downed cows, unable to walk to the kill floor, shot in the head two, three, even four times, and workers often walking away while the animal continues to struggle and kick.
  • Some downed cows who were still alive after being shot in the head were then suffocated by workers who stood on their mouths and nostrils preventing the cows from breathing.
  • Cows being tortured - repeatedly hit, jabbed, electrically shocked, and sprayed with hot water - in a narrow chute leading to the kill floor. One cow was electrically shocked over 40 times.
  • Sick or injured cows repeatedly being shocked and workers pulling or lifting them by their tails in an attempt to force them to stand and walk.
  • Improper stunning of animals prior to slaughter - many cows were thrashing, kicking, and clearly breathing after being shot in the head. Yet these animals are moved through the slaughter process onto a conveyor belt and then hoisted upside-down by one leg.

The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service shut down operations at CVM on Sunday and said an investigation was underway.

The group says the meat from the facility provides meat to the National School Lunch Program, and ABC News reports that CVM "currently holds a $3.8 million, two-month contract with the government." CVM also provided meat to the fast-food chain In-N-Out Burger, though the chain ended its relationship with CVM after hearing of the investigation.

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COK has video below. Warning: Disturbing content.

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