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February 01, 2008

Talk Back: Cruelty in California

184x265_calif_downer_cow
© The HSUS
Cattle wait in a trailer at Hallmark Meat
Packing, the site of our investigation.

Earlier this week, The HSUS released the results of a long-term investigation into inhumane treatment of dairy cows at a southern California slaughter plant. The facts and images have stirred the nation's conscience, and once again called into question the adequacy of the federal government's oversight at slaughter plants and the meat industry's own standards and conduct. Public confidence has been shaken, and there are heartfelt discussions occurring in homes and schools and workplaces throughout the nation about the inhumane treatment of animals raised for food and the quality and safety of the food products sold in the marketplace and served to schoolchildren.

There are 6,000 slaughter plants in the United States, but our investigation at this single plant has had a countrywide impact. It again reminds us that we operate in a national and global economy and the actions of even a single bad corporate actor have surprising reach and repercussions. Last year, Westland Meat Co. sold 27 million pounds of ground beef from Hallmark Meat Packing to commodity programs run by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the product went to consumers in 36 states. Since we released the results of the investigation, state education departments in California, Hawaii, Iowa, Utah, Montana, Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington have stopped serving Westland beef to students. Other agencies are certain to act soon.

So far, 58,000 of you have used humanesociety.org to send messages to the USDA expressing concern and alarm about the appalling mistreatment of downer cows at a California slaughter plant. And your comments to my blog have been streaming in, in response to this national scandal. Among the comments we received:

Just finished watching “World News Tonight” with Katie Couric. Although this is a sickening, horrific video of animal cruelty, I think it's wonderful that The HSUS is now beginning to get the recognition from mainstream media that has been missing for so long. (After all, the public likes to turn a blind eye to this sort of thing.) Please keep up the good work. The people who condone these actions have no soul and no redemption. —SG Nolin

Cruelty of this nature breaks my heart and brings tears to my eyes… I am appalled with the lack of compassion for these harmless beings and hope that those who participate in such cruelty will be brought to justice. There has to be a more humane approach. —Pamela Quarterly

I have just watched two network news reports on the horrific cruelty bestowed upon downed cows as revealed through The HSUS's investigation. I am sickened and heartbroken over man's ability to be cruel to animals. But I commend and admire all of those at The HSUS for going where most of us—even those like me who would do anything for animals—are not strong enough to go. Thank you for bringing this to America's attention. I know it goes on in most slaughterhouses and I can only hope that people who might take notice initially because they're worried about "what goes on their plate" will eventually see beyond that to the horror of the abuse and refuse to tolerate it. I have been a vegetarian for 25 years. I hope after seeing your investigation more people will join the club and realize that giving up meat is a small sacrifice for not contributing to a cruel and abusive industry. Again, thank you and bless you. —Linda Robertson-Adosini

I can't watch the video but I just wanted to let you know that this story has hit the headlines in Sydney, Australia too. Good for you for exposing this cruelty. Let’s hope it puts an end to it. —Sue

THANK YOU so much for airing the undercover special investigation (on “Inside Edition”) regarding the animal abuse taking place at the California slaughter plant. I will donate to The HSUS and continue to support and applaud HSUS’s efforts. Thank you for bringing this to the forefront. It was a very real wake-up call for me—to take action by getting involved and donating to such an important cause. Thank you! —Stephanie

Although it is so disgustingly heart-wrenching, I am glad this was documented. Something needs to be done NOW about this factory farm/slaughterhouse abuse. It is rampant, and the USDA looks the other way. Keep your presence at these hellish places and PLEASE don't let up, HSUS!!! Thank you for getting it out there! —Amy Wojcik

I read this and I cried. I am so sad. I don't eat meat but most people I know do. I am sick and I hurt for those animals. Those people MUST be arrested. This needs to get out on the news so everyday people can see this. Do people really want to eat animals that are treated so inhumanely? This should be on regular TV for the world to see. It has got to stop! Thanks for bringing this to light… I only hope we can put an end to it. They need to be arrested for animal cruelty. I don't understand how they can get away with this. How do they sleep at night? Thanks HSUS for all your hard work and for trying so hard to make a difference for all animals of the world. —Dana in Chicago

To the Humane Society: Thank you so much for revealing this horrifying treatment of one of the most docile creatures on Earth. Please keep up the good fight of exposing these atrocities of America's slaughterhouses. —Carin Pierce

Please pass on my personal thanks to the people who work so hard to investigate and uncover these truly sickening acts. I can't watch the videos but I know those who can must be touched, somehow. Without those people who actually go in and film/photograph/etc., we wouldn't have the evidence to support our requests to our lawmakers and local representatives. Thanks again for all of your hard work. I hope in the midst of all the horrors you see, there are stories of triumph and happiness in there as well. —Leah

Outstanding work, HSUS! Please express my gratitude to the individual who endured watching these heinous acts of cruelty to bring this story to light. I nearly shouted this morning when I saw someone on the train reading The Washington Post and saw the headline about abuse of cows at a slaughterhouse. Thank you for bringing this to light and thank you for everything you do for animals. —S.

I can't bring myself to watch the video... but just looking at the cows' eyes in the photos is enough to freeze my heart. Poor babies. In the last 24 hours I've had three friends email me about this and ask me to help them make the transition to vegetarianism. I pointed out that these were dairy cows, and now we have a few new vegans in the making, as well! Thanks for your hard work in horrific situations like this. The world is a better place because of the people at The HSUS. —Lisa J

After seeing only a few minutes of the footage, I am sickened to think anyone could abuse even a sick cow that way. It's disgusting; how can we treat another living thing in that manner? If it is to be killed for food, then make it quick. This is totally sick and should be prosecuted to whatever extent the law allows. Nothing should be treated that way!!! —Bill Mcmillan

No, I didn't watch the video. I can't handle seeing such cruelty any more. But, yes, I did send my opinion to the USDA. I hope it helps. Unfortunately, I have to pass a hog processing plant every day on my way to work. I called the local USDA office one day to complain about dead hogs lying next to transport trucks in the parking lot, only to be told that it was unusual (it's not) and that all precautions were taken to ensure that the hogs arrived in good health. Since that time I have had little faith in the USDA. Needless to say, I'm a vegetarian. —Laura Dugan

It's really sad how not much has changed since Peter Singer first documented the plight of animals bound for the slaughterhouse in 1975. You would think that at least the most obvious and terrible forms of cruelty would be abolished in 2008. I'm glad that the investigator caught these abuses and exposed them to the public. —Sara N

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