PAWS Magazine

 

Issue 46, Summer 2000

 

Cruelty to cows

“The chain goes too fast, more than 300 cows an hour…If I can’t get the animal knocked right, it keeps going…The chain doesn’t stop …the cows are getting hung alive…the supervisors say ‘It’s okay. Go, go, go, go!’” This was one of many damning statements contained in sworn, detailed affidavits from workers inside the Iowa Beef Processors (IBP) slaughterhouse in Wallula, Washington. On May 24, KING-5 TV aired the results of a year-long investigation conducted by their chief investigator Duane Pohlman, in conjunction with The Humane Farming Association. Viewers saw conscious cows being butchered and skinned, a violation of state and federal humane slaughter laws, which require animals to be unconscious prior to butchering.

In response to the seriousness of these charges, PAWS, the Humane Farming Association, and other local and national animal groups, petitioned Washington State Attorney General Christine Gregoire to seek enforcement action and to prosecute IBP not only for violations of the Humane Slaughter Act and of state animal cruelty laws, but for violations of worker safety and meat inspection laws as well. PAWS organized a press conference to announce the petition. “Washington citizens have clearly shown that they want farm animals to be treated humanely,” said PAWS Farm Animal Campaign Coordinator Jennifer Hillman. “On behalf of our members, we are calling on authorities to initiate prosecution for this intolerable animal cruelty.”

In addition to animal advocates, two workers from IBP Wallula spoke at the press conference. Attached to the Attorney General petition were the affidavits of the two workers, along with 15 others, all of which described a production line moving too fast and a company that forbids the workers to stop it even if the cows are being slaughtered alive. “Sometimes the supervisor comes and works on the live cows,” said one of the workers. “They don’t want the workers to stop the chain, so when the live cows are really active, workers are supposed to honk the horn and the supervisor will come to help them skin the live cow…I would estimate that one out of ten cows is still alive when it’s bled and skinned.”

“There are accidents because the cows are still alive,” the other worker added. “At the back hoof, the cow was kicking and it cut off one worker’s three fingers. The cows are kicking and jumping…the company didn’t save the fingers, so the worker lost them.”

The worker affidavits spoke to the contamination that results from processing conscious animals. “Sometimes you can’t even do your job not only because the cows are alive, but because the chain is moving so fast,” stated one worker.” Even though I’m supposed to trim contaminants, you don’t have time to clean all the pus…hair, dirt off the cows.”

The KING-5 report generated a substantial outcry from concerned citizens. In response, Governor Gary Locke issued a press release in which he announced his intent to form a multi-agency “team of experts” to investigate the allegations. On June 7, the team made an unannounced visit to the IBP Wallula plant and found no violations of any kind. It was later learned that the company stalled the team for almost an hour prior to the inspection, and had suspended the two workers who spoke at the press conference. It was also later learned that IBP was also threatening other workers with termination and jail time. To keep the pressure on this issue, Hillman worked with State Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles to release a statement signed by nine state legislators on July 1st calling for an expanded probe of the company’s mistreatment of workers and a reiteration of the need to investigate allegations of animal cruelty.

“This is far from over,” said Hillman. She encourages concerned citizens to contact the The Washington Department of Agriculture and encourage them to fully investigate IBP (see side-bar).

Contact the Washington Department of Agriculture and let them know that you expect them to enforce the Humane Slaughter Act and conduc the investigation into IBP in a timely and legitimate fashion.

Politely contact:
Assistant Director Bill Brookreson
Washington Department of Agriculture
1111 South Washington
Olympia, WA 98504-2560
phone 360-902-1810
email: Bbrookreson@agr.wa.gov


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