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February 05, 2008

Humane Society Undercover

For the last few days, I've written about the riveting and revolting images from an HSUS investigation of a southern California slaughter plant. Millions of Americans have subsequently tuned in to newscasts that showed workers at the facility abuse and torment cows too sick or injured to walk, attempting to force these downed animals onto their feet and into the food supply, principally to feed children through the National School Lunch Program. The exposé has triggered a federal investigation into the operations of Hallmark Meat Packing, caused the USDA to suspend its contract with the company that delivers meat from the plant (the second-largest supplier to the school lunch program), and prompted school districts throughout the United States to stop serving beef from the plant, with some of the districts halting the serving of any beef for the time being. It has also exposed basic flaws in the USDA policy dealing with downer cows, and prompted calls for reform.

Downed cows at Hallmark Meat Packing in California
© The HSUS
The footage from California is the latest from HSUS investigators.

It's the latest example of the remarkable work done by the investigations department at The HSUS. The brave folks who work in the department go deep undercover and toil away to document animal abuse, often for weeks or months at a time, and their diligent and dangerous work sheds a spotlight on cruelty that would otherwise go unnoticed.

Among their many accomplishments in recent months, our investigators, often working with our campaigns staff, have:

  • Exposed a high-end pet store in Los Angeles, Pets of Bel Air, and its purchasing of dogs for resale from Midwest puppy mills, even though this pet store to the stars told consumers it absolutely did not sell dogs from mills.
  • Conducted an investigation in Virginia—not thought to be a major puppy-producing state—that revealed that there are approximately 1,000 breeders in the state selling dogs commercially, many of them puppy mills. Our work resulted in the rescue of nearly 1,000 dogs from a single puppy mill and the filing of animal cruelty and neglect charges against the mill owner, and prompted the introduction of legislation in the state to address the problem.
  • Carried out an investigation into dog auctions, where puppy mills sell dogs for breeding to other mills. The investigation tracked auctions in multiple states and focused attention on the major victims of puppy mills—the breeding females who languish in cages and are bred nearly every heat cycle to turn out cash crops of puppies.
  • Documented that department stores and designers—from Burlington Coat Factory to Neiman Marcus to Macy's—were selling coats trimmed with fur, including raccoon dog and domesticated dog, and labeling it as faux or as some other species. The investigation attracted national and international headlines, caused several companies to go fur free, prompted the introduction of state and federal bills to address the problems, and informed millions of Americans that even a small amount of fur trim on a coat results in the gruesome killing of animals, including dogs, in China. Today's Washington Post has a story about our effort in Maryland to crack down on the deceptive marketing of fur trim.
  • Traveled to the Philippines and documented the collection and killing of dogs for human consumption. The activities were illegal and violated a national law against dog consumption. This investigation resulted in the rescue of dogs destined for the stew pot, and prompted a law enforcement crackdown on these illegal operators.
  • Visited horse slaughterhouses in Mexico to document crude and abusive slaughter practices, including the stabbing of horses in the spine with a short knife as the principal means of slaughter. We conducted the investigation to show American lawmakers and other citizens why it is so important to pass the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, which would bar the export of live horses to Mexico or Canada for slaughter.

These are just a handful of our recent investigations, yet each has hit these industries like a ton of bricks and stirred the conscience of the American public. We are in the forefront of the fight for animals, and you can be assured that we will continue to sniff out animal abuse wherever it occurs and expose it to the harsh glare of public opinion and demand policy reforms that will stem abuse.

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