The Cargill cattle slaughter operation in Fresno is facing U.S. Department of Agriculture scrutiny over an incident that happened earlier this month. Image via Google Earth
Written by David Castellon
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is calling for criminal charges to be filed against the operators and some employees of a Fresno beef slaughterhouse for inhumane treatment of livestock.
The action stems from a Nov. 7 incident at the Cargill Meat Solutions Corp. slaughterhouse in Fresno.
A letter the U.S. Department of Agriculture sent to the Cargill facility two days later states that an agency Food Safety and Inspection Service inspector witnessed an incident in which a skinny cow that appeared to be struggling to walk collapsed after entering a pen, and workers failed to take notice, herding into the pen several other cows that stepped on the struggling, downed cow.
It goes on to say the federal inspector “immediately began to wave arms and yell loudly at these two plant employees to tell them what had occurred, but the employees did not notice … and kept talking to each other and walking” while an estimated ten to 15 cattle walked on the fallen cow, which was blinking and kicking in its attempts to move, the USDA letter states.
Once the cows were penned, the workers noticed the fallen cow and attempted to help up the cow by hand. Failing that, the letter continues, “The employees used the electric prod once on the lumbar area, which brought the cow to stand up.”
It goes on to state, “This is an egregious act of inhumane handling of animals in connection with slaughter,” and an apparent violation of federal law regarding the humane treatment of livestock prior to slaughter.
As such, the USDA threatened to pull its FSIS inspectors from the Cargill plant, which essentially would force the facility shut down its slaughter operations.
That didn’t happen. Instead on Nov. 14 the USDA issued a letter deferring regulatory action against the company after Cargill officials provided a plan to prevent such incidents going forward, which included the two herders be pulled from working with live animals pending the outcome of an internal investigation of their actions; closing the cow pen where the incident occurred to repair an uneven portion of the concrete floor that could trip up animals; reeducating workers on proper ways to handle and monitor livestock; allowing a third-party audit of employees who handle livestock; and monitoring the effectiveness of these actions.
But while USDA isn’t punishing Cargill, at least for now, PETA officials want the Fresno District Attorney’s Office to take action under California law.
“These disturbing revelations show some of the pain and fear that this cow endured in her final moments at Cargill Meat Solutions,” states an email from PETA, citing a statement by the organization’s senior vice president, Daphna Nachminovitch.
“Cargill is 100 percent committed to the humane treatment of animals and has worked directly with experts in the field to adopt and implement policies that put animal welfare at the center of our business,” reads a statement issued by Minnesota-based Cargill, Inc. the largest privately-held corporation in the U.S. and a world-wide supplier of food, animal feed and other products.
The company declined to comment on PETA’s request for prosecution.
As for whether that may happen, an email from the Fresno County DA’s office stated that officials there hadn’t yet received the PETA letter, and “We have no further comment at this time.”