Lots of "Breaking News" this past weekend resulting from the Hallmark/Westland Meat expose, generated by a Humane Society video documenting routine unlawful practices including gratuitous animal abuse.
As you might have heard by now, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has withdrawn federal inspectors from Hallmark Meat Packing Company, provoking a company recall of over 140 million pounds of beef. The size of this recall is historic due both to the amount of beef and time frame for recall - going back 2 years. (Ugly to think that meat from 2 years ago is still around.)
FYI: The USDA will not approve for slaughter 'downed' cows, as it's indicative of the severe health problems of the cow, and the increased possibilities that the cow's meat will infect our food supplies with dangerous E. coli and salmonella bacteria, as well as a life-threatening brain encephalopathy.
Slaughterhouse Hallmark Meat Packing is the second largest supplier of beef to the National School Lunch Program, which also feed the needy and the elderly. [The company's Operations Manager is also President of Westland Meat Company, which is a buyer/distributor of meats from Hallmark.]
Programs affected: National School Lunch Program, the Emergency Food Assistance Program and the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations.
Here is contact information for the Michigan National School Lunch Program (as listed on the USDA "Food Distribution Programs" web page):
NSLP, State Processing Contact:
Cheryl A. Schubel, Acting Supervisor
Fiscal Management and Food Distribution Grants
Coordination and School Support
Michigan Department of Education
PO Box 30008
Lansing, MI 48909
Tel: (517) 241-2597
Fax: (517) 373-4022
According to WDIV TV news, some of the Hallmark/Westland beef was distributed by public schools in Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, and Portage, Michigan.
Check out the NBC Today Show story and see the Humane Society undercover video, which documents attempts to force sick and injured cattle to stand up - as required by law for inspection and approval for slaughter.
This is what I saw on the video:
- electric shocks to immobile cattle's rectums, heads, necks, and backs
- pushing/raising cows with forklift prongs
- rolling cows with the forklift's wheels
- slamming cows into the killbox with forklifts
- cows being kicked in the head, and hit in the head with the ends of poles
- high intensity water sprays shot up cows' nostrils ("veterinary water-boarding")
- cows dragged across the ground by their necks and legs with chains attached to vehicles
Slaughterhouse staff are required to notify the on-site USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) for re-evaluation of a downed animal. The USDA is saying that Hallmark did not "consistently" contact their staff. My question is: if these Inspectors are on-site all day everyday, how could they possibly be ignorant of such appalling practices? Nice way for the USDA to let Hallmark be the fall-guy for their own inability to police.
Two Hallmark staffers seen on tape abusing the animals have been fired from their jobs and have been charged with felony and misdemeanor animal abuse.
How could Hallmark be unaware of their employees' behaviors for at least six weeks (during which the actions were videotaped)? Nice way for a business to shirk responsibility and let their employees be the fall-guy. Really, do you want to do business with a company that says it doesn't know what its employees are doing day in and day out? How can you not see cows being dragged behind vehicles or lifted with forklifts. Does someone yell Hey, the boss is coming! and suddenly everything seems normal?
Hallmark management staff is either incredibly stupid or incredibly malicious with their "save management, sacrifice the blue-collar worker" attitude. The senior staff should be charged with felonies - perhaps fraud and animal abuse.
detroit dog's thoughts: Hallmark's routine abuse is more than likely not the industry exception. Hallmark management should be held accountable for the actions of their employees. The good that's come of these terrible acts: millions are now aware of how their foods are processed, and how animals are treated prior to slaughter; people are rethinking the eating of meat (I know one person that's just become a vegetarian; detroit dog has been vegetarian since you were a pup); people are taking a closer look at government due diligence.
Contact info for Hallmark-Westland Meats:
Westland Meat Company, 13677 Yorba Ave., Chino, CA 91710
Email is: firstname.lastname@example.org
The following is lifted from Release No. 0048.08 at the USDA web site, where you can find other releases and information regarding the recall, including a statement by Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer, transcripts and audio of technical briefings, and a listing of all news releases and statements (titled USDA Actions).
Q. Why didn't FSIS personnel witness non-ambulatory animals being presented for slaughter?
A. FSIS inspection program personnel conduct ante-mortem inspection on all cattle on the same day of slaughter. If an animal becomes non-ambulatory before or at the time of being presented for slaughter, plant personnel are required to summon an FSIS Public Health Veterinarian to re-evaluate the animal.
If an animal becomes non-ambulatory after passing ante-mortem inspection, the Public Health Veterinarian may make a determination, on a case by case basis, that the animal was unable to walk due to an acute injury, such as due to a broken leg, and would therefore be eligible to move on to slaughter as a "U.S. Suspect."
FSIS inspection program personnel maintain a continuous presence at all slaughter establishments while they are operating.
FSIS inspection program personnel are stationed at various points throughout the slaughter and processing operation.
Public Health Veterinarians or other inspectors visit the holding pens to conduct ante-mortem inspection on an entire lot. They also randomly return to the area to observe specific humane handling activities at other times throughout each production shift.
Check the USDA FSIS web site for a listing of food "Open Federal Cases"; information is downloadable via PDF. Or, check out the Los Angeles Times list of recalled Hallmark /Westland beef products.
To read more about this historic recall and the human health perspective, read today's Washington Post article USDA Orders Largest Meat Recall in U.S. History.
U.S. Reps DeLauro, Miller, and McCarthy, and Sen. Dick Durbin, have asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate and explain processes for the protection of students and schools. Read the Reuters story Lawmakers Call For Review of School Lunch Program.What to do? Send a message to Secretary of Agriculture Edward Schafer; visit the Humane Society web site and "Take Action."