Central Valley Meat Company, the California slaughterhouse that the USDA shut down for humane violations after watching a Compassion Over Killing undercover video of the plant, is open again. Care2 reported on the shut-down on August 21, 2012, in a post titled Cows Electrocuted, Abused at California Slaughterhouse.
According to the Los Angeles Times, “Aaron Lavallee, spokesman for the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, said Monday that Central Valley Meat Co. had agreed to make a number of ‘corrective actions,’ including additional training for its workers on the humane handling of cows.”
The abuses documented on the video, which was four hours long, illustrated a culture of animal cruelty and abuse. It is difficult to imagine what kind of “corrective actions” could shift a culture so significantly that people who now view animals as objects for their sadism would come to respect them or at least treat them decently.
The USDA disagrees. It has prescribed a few concrete changes to address specific kinds of torture captured on the video. As the L.A. Times and The Washington Post report, Central Valley Meat Company must:
* Allow only properly trained employees to use electric or vibrating prods on its cattle
* Ensure that electric prods are used sparingly, and only on muscled and well-fleshed areas and not on a cow’s face or sensitive parts
* Ensure cows that are not capable of walking while being transported are humanely stunned
* Require that employees are retrained on the humane treatment of animals on a quarterly basis.
One glaring gap in this list is a provision for punishment of workers who violate these rules or humane slaughter laws.
Another is the assumption that humane stunning is always possible. Captive bolt guns, which slaughterhouse workers shoot into cows’ heads to stun them before slaughter, are notoriously unreliable. One former slaughterhouse worker told The Washington Post that “dozens” of the steer who would pass by his assembly line station each day were still conscious.
He cut their legs off anyway.
The slaughterhouse announced that it will have better monitoring of its facilities. But during the time that the damning video was made, two USDA inspectors were on the premises full-time. No explanation is forthcoming as to how monitoring of its facilities will be improved.
One of the USDA’s reasons for closing Central Valley Meat for a week was its concern that by slaughtering cows who could not walk and integrating them into the country’s meat supply, the facility may have been spreading disease. The agency continues to investigate whether any diseases were introduced into the human food supply.
Central Valley Meat will suffer some financial repercussions from recent events. In-N-Out Burger will no longer buy from the supplier, and McDonald’s and the USDA have both suspended their purchases of Central Valley meat products. The USDA, however, is open to changing its position once the company makes the changes outlined above.
Update (9/13/2012): The U.S. Department of Agriculture has concluded its investigation into the sickening conditions at Central Valley Meat Company and concluded that no diseased animals entered the food stream, according to The New York Times. The USDA plans to conduct quarterly audits of the facility; how this will be an improvement over the previous arrangement of two inspectors on-site full-time is unclear.
Based on its conclusions and inspection changes, the USDA announced that it will resume buying meat from Central Valley. So far no corporations that severed ties with the slaughterhouse have changed their minds, and given the mild slap on the wrist that Central Valley received and the likelihood that conditions there will not change, one can only hope that those companies will keep their distance from the facility.
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