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Peace Talks: Farm Sanctuary responds to Biggest Beef Recall in US History
George Cadman of Free Radio Santa Cruz 101.1 FM interviews Tricia Barry, communications director for Farm Sanctuary, about the recent recall of 143 million pounds of beef by a Chino, CA slaughterhouse. It is the biggest beef recall in US History. The recall came after the Humane Society of the United States accused Westland/Hallmark of abusing downed cattle, releasing video that showed workers kicking cows, jabbing them near their eyes, ramming them with a forklift and shooting high-intensity water up their noses in an effort to force them to their feet for slaughter. Federal inspectors halted operations at the plant earlier this month after finding "clear violations" of USDA regulations. California prosecutors on Friday announced animal cruelty charges against two former employees of the plant.
Current Press Releases
In Light of Largest Beef Recall in US History, Farm Sanctuary Asks, "Why not pork?"
No Downers Campaign Documents More Than 20 Years of Abuse; Urges Federal Legislation to End Marketing of All Downed Animals
WASHINGTON, DC - February 18, 2008 - The largest meat recall in U.S. history (143 million pounds of beef from the Hallmark/Westland slaughter plant) has awakened national concerns over food safety, while shedding light on an ongoing practice of the meat packing industry - downed animals, those too sick, diseased or weak to stand, are entering the human food supply. No laws or government agency policies currently prevent downed pigs, sheep, goats or other livestock from going to slaughter for human consumption.
For more than 20 years, through its No Downers Campaign, Farm Sanctuary has documented abuse of non-ambulatory animals and worked for passage of the first laws in this country to end the marketing of downed cattle. Today, the nation's leading farm animal protection organization is reiterating its call for the passage of The Downed Animal and Food Safety Protection Act (HR 661 S 394) which would ban the slaughter of all downed animals, including pigs, sheep and other livestock. Farm Sanctuary is also calling on the USDA to close the current loophole that allows some downed cattle to continue to go to slaughter, and to prevent diseased animals from being used for human food.
Gene Baur, president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, who has investigated stockyards and slaughterhouses documenting violations of USDA policy, the federal Methods of Humane Slaughter Act and state anti-cruelty laws for 22 years, stated, "We've had scores, if not hundreds, of phone calls, letters and emails with the USDA over the years related specifically to downed animal concerns and their reaction is about as predictable as the cruelty witnessed at Hallmark/Westland."
Julie Janovsky, Farm Sanctuary's director of campaigns, stated, "If it takes a recall of 143 million pounds of beef to change policy, then so be it, but the USDA hasn't protected our nation's children who already ate the burgers, and who continue to eat other downed animal products. We can only hope that Congress' reaction to public outrage is swift and thorough. Legislation is in play with the Downed Animal and Food Safety Protection Act. It's time to enact it."
Farm Sanctuary has rescued 226 cattle since its inception (146 through the New York shelter and 80 through the California shelter.) Of these, 79 were downed animals rescued during investigations at stockyards and slaughterhouses throughout the U.S.
Jeff Lydon, executive director at Farm Sanctuary added, "I wish we were as shocked as the USDA claims to be by these blatant acts of animal cruelty inflicted at the Chino slaughterhouse, but our experience with these facilities suggests that continued violations under the current system are inevitable."
Farm Sanctuary No Downers Campaign Timeline:
1986 - Farm Sanctuary rescues, Hilda, a sheep, lifted from a "downer" dead pile at a stockyard. Hilda is the first animal rescued by Farm Sanctuary and her rescue results in the launch of Farm Sanctuary's first campaign - the No Downers Campaign.
1991 - Media exposé airs startling footage obtained by Farm Sanctuary showing downed animals being dragged onto trucks. This coverage prompts the nation's largest stockyards to stop marketing downed animals and leads to the introduction of the Downed Animal Protection Act in Washington, DC one year later.
1992 - The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) Directives 6900.1 and 6900.2 are enacted which provide guidelines for the humane handling of downed livestock; they require that inspectors ensure downed livestock are provided food, water and shelter and moved by sufficient personnel with appropriate means to ensure humane handling.
1993 - Farm Sanctuary documents fork lifting and dragging of downed cattle. Farm Sanctuary lobbies the California State legislature with this footage urging representatives to pass a bill protecting downers.
1993 - At the urging of hundreds of Farm Sanctuary members, a USDA-run slaughterhouse in Wisconsin is convicted of animal cruelty for mistreating a downed animal.
1993 - From 1993 through 1994, Hallmark slaughterhouses in Chino are cited for multiple instances of FSIS antibiotic drug residue violations.
1993 - Farm Sanctuary achieves first ever conviction of a U.S. stockyard for mistreating a downed animal after prosecuting Lancaster Stockyards in Pennsylvania.
1994 - Farm Sanctuary helps pass a law in California (California Penal Code 599f), which prevents dragging, pushing, holding, or selling downed animals at stockyards and slaughterhouses. Other states follow California, passing similar laws.
1996 - Farm Sanctuary corresponds with the Pomona Valley Humane Society and local SPCA who claim witnessing several instances of cruelty toward downed cattle by Hallmark workers. In addition, these local authorities note numerous reports of other livestock from this facility on the loose, endangering the public.
1999 - Humane Methods of Slaughter Act of 1978 is amended to include prohibiting the dragging of downed animals. The law applies only to livestock that are on the premises of a USDA-inspected packing plant and requires the use of humane handling and stunning methods.
1999 - Farm Sanctuary petitions USDA to label meat from downers as diseased and therefore illegal for use in human food. The USDA issues a response that the slaughter of downed, and otherwise infected animals is not illegal, implying that this is an acceptable practice.
2000 - The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service issues an announcement stating that contractors who sell ground beef to the National School Lunch Program and other Federal food and nutrition programs must source beef only from slaughter facilities that do not allow the processing of non-ambulatory cattle.
2001 - Farm Sanctuary files a lawsuit with the USDA urging an end to the marketing of downed cattle for human consumption.
2003 - The first case of mad cow disease is discovered in a downed cow in Washington State in December.
2003 - At Farm Sanctuary's urging, USDA promulgates a rule to prevent the slaughter of downed cattle for human food. Farm Sanctuary attorneys later negotiate settlement of this lawsuit against the USDA in response to the Agency's no downer rule.
2004 - The Government Accounting Office releases a report on the inadequacies of the USDA inspection system, related to mad cow disease, finding gross oversights and inconsistencies in enforcement nationally. The USDA announces an interim policy against slaughtering all downed cattle.
2005 - FSIS faces new policies and testing procedures for mad cow disease after 1000 violations of new slaughterhouse rules are cited. In June, the second BSE case is found from an infected cow in Texas.
2005 - The USDA cites the Chino Hallmark facility on several occasions for humane handling violations.
2007 - New Holland Sales Stables found guilty on three counts of animal cruelty, after a Farm Sanctuary humane officer in Lancaster County, PA files charges for inhumane handling of downed sheep on the premises. New Holland Sales Stables has been the subject of multiple animal cruelty investigations through the years.
2007 - The USDA makes permanent the interim policy preventing the slaughter of downed cattle. This decision went into effect on October 1, 2007, and applies a permanent ban on slaughtering most cattle unable to stand and walk on their own as a result of illness, injury or a combination of illness and injury. However, a loophole in the regulation allows some downer cattle, and other downed farm animals to be slaughtered for human consumption.
About Farm Sanctuary
Farm Sanctuary is the nation's leading farm animal protection organization. Since incorporating in 1986, Farm Sanctuary has worked to expose and stop cruel practices of the "food animal" industry through research and investigations, legal and institutional reforms, public awareness projects, youth education, and direct rescue and refuge efforts. Farm Sanctuary shelters in Watkins Glen, N.Y., and Orland, Calif., provide lifelong care for hundreds of rescued animals, who have become ambassadors for farm animals everywhere by educating visitors about the realities of factory farming. Additional information can be found at http://www.farmsanctuary.org or by calling 607-583-2225.