The USDA is suspending Central Valley Meat (CVM) in Hanford, California after the nonprofit group Compassion Over Killing recorded an undercover video showing workers mistreating animals. The facility is immediately suspended and can no longer slaughter or process food, and government inspectors have been withdrawn. Their mark of inspection has been suspended.
The video is extremely disturbing. Central Valley Meat has provided meat to the National School Lunch Program in the past. It also supplies In-N-Out Burger, which has severed ties with CVM. Former USDA inspector and supervisor Dr. Lester Friedlander stated, “I could not believe the repeated Humane Slaughter Violations that occurred. The company should be held accountable for these violations.” The government is investigating whether or not tainted meat entered the food supply.
According to Compassion Over Killing, the cows were “spent” dairy cows who are slaughtered after they are no longer efficient milk producers. The video shows downed cows being shot in the head several times before they finally die. Cows were tortured and suffocated by workers who stood on their faces to prevent breathing. And animals were improperly stunned before slaughter. The USDA launched an investigation within hours after the group gave them the video.
These types of undercover videos are no longer legal in several states: Missouri, Utah, and Iowa passed the so-called Ag Gag laws this year. Nathan Rundle, director of Mercy for Animals, said that “consumers have a right to know how their food is being produced and how animals on modern farms are treated so they can make informed choices.”
Al Almanza, Administrator of the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, said, “our top priority is to ensure the safety of the food Americans feed their families. We have reviewed the video and determined that, while some of the footage provided shows unacceptable treatment of cattle, it does not show anything that would compromise food safety. Therefore, we have not substantiated a food safety violation at this time.” “At this time” is the operative phrase; a recall may still be issued if the investigation shows violations.
According to USDA regulations, if an animal is non-ambulatory before slaughter, it must be condemned, humanely euthanized, and discarded so it does not enter the food supply. The government has said that downer cattle were not processed for food in this case. But scientists have linked stressed animals to issues with food safety, according to the USDA. In fact, “when livestock are unduly stressed, they undergo physiological changes that can increase their changes of catching and spreading disease.”