The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Dylan Blaylock, GAP Communications Dir.
202.457.0034, ext. 137

Slaughterhouse Whistleblower Reveals Inhumane Animal Treatment, Food Integrity Violations

FSIS Ignores Serious Problems and Retaliates Against Whistleblower; GAP Client Dean Wyatt to Testify Today Before House Committee


EST this afternoon, Government Accountability Project (GAP) client
and federal food safety inspector Dean Wyatt will testify before a House of
Representatives Subcommittee, and blow the whistle on a laundry list of
problems he witnessed at two major meat-packing plants. The egregious nature of
the violations and the subsequent reaction by the USDA's Food Safety
& Inspection Service (FSIS) regional offices raise serious questions about
the current state of national food integrity oversight, the FSIS attitude
toward and treatment of whistleblowers, and the overall state of food safety in

The hearing will be held by the House of
Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Subcommittee on
Domestic Policy, at 2154 Rayburn
House Office

Wyatt has been a public health veterinarian with FSIS
for more than 18 years. FSIS is the primary government department charged with
monitoring the inner workings of food processing plants, and guarding against
any threats to public safety or inhumane animal treatment. Before raising
concerns, Wyatt was repeatedly lauded for his work performance from both inside
and outside the agency, and received numerous performance awards and veterinary
honors over the past decade.

However, as Wyatt's experiences clearly illustrate,
FSIS officials continually chose to ignore shocking reports of inhumane
treatment and safety violations. Instead, FSIS reprimanded him on several
occasions for trying to hold the incompliant plants accountable, and subjected
him to a slew of blatant retaliatory actions. These included the ordering of
obviously unnecessary remedial training that damaged his professional
reputation, writing a letter of reprimand, and forcing him to transfer to a
different plant.

"The evidence and testimony presented by Dean
Wyatt today will show that FSIS is more interested in keeping the food industry
happy than protecting the public," said GAP Public Health Associate Jonathan Cantu. "There should be a full-scale
investigation into how FSIS operates, treats it staff, and deals with non-compliance

Oklahoma - Seaboard Farms

When Wyatt attempted to enforce food safety laws at
the Seaboard Farms plant in Oklahoma
from March 2007 to May 2008, his FSIS superiors repeatedly retaliated against
him. Wyatt's disclosures at the hearing will cover his experiences at
that plant, and at the Bushway Packing plant in Vermont. Specifically, Wyatt will speak
about the following atrocities that were committed at Seaboard:

  • Conscious pigs,
    shackled to the conveyor line, having their throats slit while kicking and
  • Inhumane unloading
    of livestock off of trucks, to the point that several animals were
    trampled and crushed
  • Needless and unprovoked
    beating of animals

Wyatt wrote to the FSIS District Office (in
Springdale, Arizona) about the preceding gross violations of safe and ethical
animal handling laws in non-compliance reports (NRs), which is the proper
procedure for reporting plant wrongdoing. The FSIS ignored his concerns and
chose to bully, intimidate, and retaliate against him. Specifically:

  • After Wyatt notified
    the District Office about the slaughtering of live animals, the office
    chose to not speak with him directly about his allegations, and instead
    blanket-accepted the company's version of events.
  • After exposing the
    trampling of animals, on-site FSIS inspection personnel were chastised and
    blamed. Subsequently, plant officials simply erected panels to
    prevent FSIS personnel from viewing future offloading. When Wyatt
    informed the District Office of this, he was told to take no action.
  • After Wyatt
    contacted the district office about the beating of pigs, Wyatt received a
    letter of reprimand.
  • After observing the
    forced trampling for a second time, and sending another NR, District
    Office management ordered him to drastically cut back on his
    humane-handling enforcement. Wyatt was also notified that he would be
    demoted to a non-supervisory position for two weeks.

This sort of cycle repeated itself until, in another
act of retaliation, Wyatt was informed he had to leave the plant and transfer
to another site.

Vermont - Bushway Packing

Wyatt then moved to the Bushway Packing plant in Vermont. Shockingly,
Wyatt found that the abuse levels and acts of wrongdoing were horrific at this
plant as well, and that the regional FSIS District Office (Albany, NY) was
also unwilling to intervene and solve the problem. Problems at this site

  • Cattle were
    haphazardly shot, resulting in repeated firings being necessary, and in
    some cases animals were left writhing in pain with head-shot injuries
  • Baby calves were
    being dragged on the ground because they were too young, weak, and
    dehydrated to stand. Some of these calves were then thrown in the air into
  • The FSIS District
    Office gave specific orders to plant management, demanding that the
    calf-stunning area be decreased in size (to safeguard the animal's
    wellbeing when stunned). After the plant manager became angry and
    protested, the District Office backed down, and no changes were

Retaliation and response to Wyatt's concerns
regarding these problems was similar to those he experienced while in Oklahoma - his
allegations, written up in NRs, were largely ignored or downplayed. The Vermont plant manager then discovered Wyatt's past
"problems" at the Oklahoma
plant, and claimed that Wyatt was harassing him. FSIS supervisors then ordered
Wyatt to attend remedial training classes - a unique punishment for
someone of Wyatt's background and stature - which was later made
public in a newsletter sent throughout the industry, damaging Wyatt's
professional reputation.


Wyatt turned to GAP. Until today, his disclosures to
several government officials have remained anonymous, and have prompted much
needed and greater scrutiny of the situation. In addition, Wyatt's concerns
about plant treatment of animals were validated last year when a Humane Society
of the United States undercover
worker infiltrated the Vermont
plant and exposed graphic and shocking forms of inhumane animal treatment. The
video garnered national media attention and also alluded to plant officials
actively trying to hide wrongdoing from Wyatt. On camera, one of Wyatt's
subordinates told plant personnel only to engage in violations when Wyatt was
not present.

"This smoking gun proves that FSIS cannot
perform its function of ensuring food integrity, and that the agency takes a punitive
stance against whistleblowers" stated GAP Public Health Associate Amanda Hitt. "Wyatt's experiences at
these two separate plants illustrate a pattern that FSIS is broken, and must be
fixed immediately."


Wyatt has supplied several recommendations to the
committee about what actions should be taken to fix these problems permanently.
Besides holding accountable those responsible for the retaliation against him,
Wyatt has outlined how: 1) FSIS needs more staffers at each plant in order to
catch all potential violations of food integrity; 2) the Whistleblower Protection
Enhancement Act must be passed; and 3) a through revamping must be undertaken
of the non-compliance reporting system (the method by which FSIS field staff
report violations).

The Government Accountability Project (GAP) is a 30-year-old nonprofit public interest group that promotes government and corporate accountability by advancing occupational free speech, defending whistleblowers, and empowering citizen activists. We pursue this mission through our Nuclear Safety, International Reform, Corporate Accountability, Food & Drug Safety, and Federal Employee/National Security programs. GAP is the nation's leading whistleblower protection organization.