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May 07, 2008

Routine Abuse

I just spoke at a standing-room-only press conference at our Washington, D.C. headquarters to reveal our latest undercover investigation and video. I announced that our investigations unit had looked at the handling of "downer" cows before they arrive at a slaughter plant—specifically, at intermediate transport points known as livestock auctions. People sell and buy animals at auctions, and from there, animals often go to slaughterhouses. This was a follow-up to our Hallmark/Westland hidden camera investigation, unveiled on Jan. 30, which triggered the largest meat recall in American history.

Our undercover investigators visited four auction sites in four states—in Maryland, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and Texas—and at every location they found downer cows languishing and suffering. What they also found was that no one was taking charge or taking responsibility.

In the Hallmark investigation, the abuses of the downer cows occurred even though the U.S. Department of Agriculture had inspectors present. Today's investigation revealed that these animals are in regulatory limbo—there are no federal or state humane inspectors who are a regular presence at the auction sites. And neither the farmers delivering the animals nor the auction house personnel receiving them were humanely euthanizing the animals, even when they were languishing in open areas in plain sight for hours.

In the most appalling case of abandonment and mistreatment, one downer cow in Westminster, Md. was left for dead in the mid-afternoon, and the auction house left her there overnight, even after the auction ended. Her misery ended only the next day after our undercover investigator called the local humane society to come out to dispatch the animal with a firearm.

The issue should be covered on your evening news tonight, since there was a bank of 12 cameras at our press conference today. You can also view our web feature and narrated video. We'll continue to provide you updates on humanesociety.org.

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