Shocking Cruel Treatment of Calves Closes Vermont Slaughterhouse

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Shocking Cruel Treatment of Calves Closes Vermont Slaughterhouse

[Ed. Note: See Calf Slaughter footage.]

By Sharon Seltzer on Care2.com
November 2009

It’s hard to say which part of this story is more intolerable. The fact that these calves, who were only days old and still had their umbilical cords attached, were kicked, stunned with electrical prods and cut open while they were conscious or the fact that this slaughterhouse already had its license suspended three times earlier this year for animal abuse.

Shocking video was released last week about the cruel treatment of newborn calves, at Bushway Packing, Inc. – a slaughterhouse in Vermont.

It’s hard to say which part of this story is more intolerable. The fact that these calves, who were only days old and still had their umbilical cords attached, were kicked, stunned with electrical prods and cut open while they were conscious or the fact that this slaughterhouse already had its license suspended three times earlier this year for animal abuse.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture closed down Bushway Packing for a day in May, June and again in July after an inspector cited the company for inhumane treatment of animals.

However, it wasn’t until the HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) released an undercover video on Friday, that the government finally decided to react by shutting down the company.

The Video Footage

According to a release from HSUS the video shows how the calves weren’t “rendered insensible to pain” as required by law. One awful scene shows an infant making noises as his head was being severed.

Another scene has one of the co-owners of Bushway Packing, Inc. repeatedly shocking a calf who could not stand up. On the tape he says, “There’s nothing wrong with you, Shitbox.”

In yet another scene, workers are taped while throwing water on a calf in order to intensify the electrical current of the prods.

Charges

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack had a very strong reaction to the abuse at Bushway Packing and immediately issued an investigation. He also assured the public that he would press for criminal charges against the owners of the company.

In a news release he said, “The deplorable scenes recorded in the video released by the Humane Society of the United States are unequivocally unacceptable. The callous behavior and attitudes displayed in the video clearly appear to be violations of USDA’s humane handling regulations.”

The Department of Agriculture also issued an investigation into conduct of the USDA Inspector who is stationed at the slaughterhouse. Inspectors are “obligated to take immediate action” when they see behaviors that are not in compliance with federal laws.

Facts

Male calves wind up at the slaughterhouse via two different routes. Some are sold to veal factory farms where they are kept until they are 4 months old. Then they are shipped to a slaughter plant.

Other calves are slaughtered for “bob veal” which is the meat that ends up in hot dogs and lunch meats. These calves are sent to the slaughterhouse within a week of being born.

Bushway Packing, Inc. specialized in calves used for “bob veal.”

“The calves are taken away from their mothers at birth and sent, as mere infants, to the slaughter plant for immediate slaughter – to be used as “bob veal.” Without their mothers to nourish them, they are in a weakened state – hungry, lonely, confused, frightened, and in some cases, unable to stand or walk,” said Wayne Pacelle CEO of HSUS.

The other greatly disturbing fact in this case is that Bushway Packing was “certified as an organic processor.” This brought a strong reaction from organic dairy farmers who supplied the slaughterhouse with their calves.

Paul Stecker, an organic dairy farmer who watched the video told HSUS, “That’s not right, that’s really nasty. I wouldn’t be in this business if that’s the way it was. That’s not the norm. I can tell you that.”

The whole ordeal is making dairy farmers look at an area of their industry they usually do not want to address.

As an animal advocate, I sincerely hope this horrific story won’t just become “the story of the week” and slowly leave our minds as the days pass. Care2 blogger Angel F. has been writing a series of stories about the Vegan lifestyle. Maybe now is the time to reconsider this option.