The horrors of cattle slaughter continue in the United States, by Daniel Paden

Press service of the Daniel Paden tribune

Two decades after a Washington Post article titled ‘They’re dying piece by piece’ detailed the horrors animals face in slaughterhouses and exposed federal officials’ poor enforcement of the law on slaughter methods Cruelty Free (HMSA), not much has changed. The meat industry and the agency responsible for regulating it continue to fail miserably with animals. Obviously, the best way to keep farm animals from suffering is to keep meat off our plates.

The title of the article quotes an abattoir worker’s description of how still-conscious cattle were slaughtered in 2001. Today, the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) own reports tell how cows and other animals still suffer horrific deaths.

In Minnesota last December, workers shot a conscious cow three times in the head, slit her throat, cut her and injected a chemical into her wounds. The cow clenched her teeth in pain until a gunshot ended her suffering.

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In Illinois in August 2021, a pig hanging upside down on the slaughter line cried out after being passed through a carcass washing cabinet. A worker cut the conscious pig’s throat. Then the pig was plunged into a tank of boiling water and beaten and shouted at before finally being put down.

The two slaughterhouses were allowed to resume animal slaughter a day after the incidents, after submitting documents to the USDA for approval.

Meanwhile, the more than 9 billion chickens, turkeys and other birds slaughtered each year in the United States are not protected by HMSA. No law requires them to be even stunned before they have their throats cut. Birds are regularly drowned in scalding tanks.

At one slaughterhouse, workers left 25,867 chickens overnight on trailers in an open shed as the wind chill dropped to minus 32 degrees. More than 9,000 birds died and many were frozen in metal cages. At another facility, more than 30,000 chickens were deprived of food and water for more than 24 hours, killing more than 1,600 birds.

But USDA management took no enforcement action on their behalf.

What the Washington Post reported three presidencies ago remains true: The USDA makes rare use of the severe sanctions at its disposal. Since 1978, violations of the HMSA have been punishable by imprisonment of up to one year and/or a fine of up to $1,000. However, the USDA has obviously never filed criminal charges against a licensed slaughterhouse.

As a result, a Pennsylvania slaughterhouse continues to operate despite 20 violations of the law since February 2018. In June 2019, workers there shot a conscious cow three times in the head. In January 2020, a cow that had been shot three times and was hanging on the slaughter chain was screaming loudly and looking around. A worker ignored this and slit his throat.

In August 2020, another cow from the same facility was shot three times in the head. Three months later, another cow was still standing and looking around after two blows to the head. In June 2021, the victim was a pig that remained standing after being shot between the eyes.

Business continues as usual at this slaughterhouse – with the blessing of the USDA – and others where animals suffer and die in violation of HMSA. Former USDA supervising veterinarian Lester Friedlander said in 2001 that the violations were “out of control.” They always are. And chronic offenders, emboldened by the agency’s toothless responses, have no reason to expect significant consequences.

Any hope that “humane slaughter” might be anything more than an oxymoron should fade given the USDA’s dismal failure to enforce HMSA in any meaningful way. If you don’t want sensitive, intelligent animals to continue dying “bit by bit”, stop eating them.

Daniel Paden is Vice President of Evidence Analysis for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

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