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Video reveals violations at slaughterhouse

By Washington Post
Published January 30, 2008


WASHINGTON - Video footage being released today shows workers at a California slaughterhouse violating state and federal regulations.

The video shows the workers delivering repeated electric shocks to cows too sick or weak to stand on their own; drivers using forklifts to roll the "downer" cows on the ground in efforts to get them to stand up for inspection; and high-intensity water sprays being shot up animals' noses.

All are violations of state and federal laws designed to prevent animal cruelty and to keep unhealthy animals, such as those with mad cow disease, out of the food supply.

Moreover, the companies where these practices allegedly occurred are major suppliers of meat for the nation's school lunch programs, according to a company official and federal documents.

The footage was taken by an undercover investigator for an animal welfare group who wore a videocamera under his clothes while working at the facility last year. It is evidence that anticruelty and food safety rules are inadequate and that Agriculture Department inspections and enforcement need to be enhanced, said officials with the Humane Society of the United States, which coordinated the project.

The investigator and Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society, said the footage was taken at Hallmark Meat Packing in Chino, Calif. Hallmark sells meat for processing to Westland Meat Co. in Chino, according to Westland president Steve Mendell, who is also Hallmark's operations manager.

In the past five years, Westland has sold about 100-million pounds of frozen beef, valued at $146-million, to the Agriculture Department's commodities program that supplies food for school lunches and programs for the needy, federal documents show.

In an interview, Mendell expressed disbelief that workers used stun guns to get sick or injured animals on their feet for inspection.

"That's impossible," he said, adding that "electrical prods are not allowed on the property."

[Last modified January 30, 2008, 02:13:26]

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