Compassion Over Killing Video Exposes Slaughterhouse That Brutally Abuses Cows

Ever wonder where the meat in your school lunch comes from? Now you know.

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Clare Leschin-Hoar's stories on seafood and food politics have appeared in Scientific American, Eating Well and elsewhere.

In-N-Out Burger, McDonald's, Costco and now the federal government can’t seem to distance themselves fast enough from Central Valley Meat in California, after animal rights group Compassion Over Killing released footage of cows being abused at the slaughterhouse earlier this week.

Graphic video shot in mid-June though early July, shows aggressive use of electric prods on cows that had difficulty standing or walking; images of cows writhing on the ground; and even a worker standing on the nose and mouth of a cow in an effort to suffocate it.

Brutal, raw stuff.

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According to a USDA statement, food safety regulations state “that if an animal is non-ambulatory disabled at any time prior to slaughter it must be condemned promptly, humanely euthanized, and properly discarded so that it does not enter the food supply.”

The agency closed the facility on August 19, but did not issue a recall of meat processed at the plant. An investigation has been launched.

Helena Bottemiller at Food Safety News reports that as of 2009, Central Valley Meat was one of the top three suppliers of ground beef to the National School Lunch Program. In 2011, the plant supplied the USDA with approximately 21 million pounds of beef. The plant, located in Hanford, CA, 200 miles north of Los Angeles, was known to process spent dairy cows. According to NPR, the confirmed case of mad cow disease that grabbed headlines in April, was also discovered at a rendering plant in Hanford.

Soon after the video was released, In-N-Out Burger executive Mark Taylor issued a statement that the 269-store burger chain immediately severed ties with the supplier, and does not condone the inhumane treatment of animals. That announcement was swiftly followed by news that McDonald’s and Costco were also severing ties, as well as the USDA itself.

“Our investigator identified a few companies where the meat was going, and we were able to 100 percent confirm In-N-Out, though we weren't able to confirm other companies that used [the meat from Central Valley] before we released the video. McDonald’s and Costco just severed ties too,” Erica Meier, executive director of Compassion Over Killing tells TakePart.

“When the cruelty is caught on camera, people are shocked to see this type of footage. It’s graphic. And unfortunately, it’s not an isolated incident,” she says. “Instead of taking steps to prevent cruelty from happening, the meat industry is working to pass laws to prevent the public from seeing what is happening in these places.”

She’s talking about ag-gag legislation, like that passed by the state of Iowa, and considered in other states —like Florida, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Illinois, Indiana and Tennessee—that would prohibit or severely limit the taping of facilities like Central Valley Meat.

Renowned animal expert Temple Grandin also issued a statement yesterday classifying parts of the video as egregious animal abuse.

“Some of the major issues in the video originate due to the poor conditions of the animals arriving at the plant, many of which should have been euthanized on the farm. I urge the dairy industry to market their cows before they become weak and extremely debilitated,” Grandin says.

The USDA confirms that the last audit of Central Valley Meats was completed July 24, 2012.

“This is a federally inspected slaughterhouse that is selling meat to the USDA for the school lunch program,” says Meier. “It has to have an inspector on site. It’s not just an inspection here and there. Every single day, even when our investigator was there, an inspector was on site.”

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