SALEM, Ohio — The Humane Society of the United States released a video June 25 that showed cattle being repeatedly shocked with electric prods and dragged by chains while alive. The video, taped in May at the Portales Livestock Auction in Portales, N.M., was shot by an HSUS undercover employee working on behalf of the organization.
The HSUS investigator observed the sale of three downed cows that had been abused to get them into the auction area.
“This gross mistreatment of spent dairy cows should turn your stomach, and they have been uncovered in location after location,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States .
Ban on downer cows
In response to a video released in May by the Humane Society of the United States at the Hallmark/Westland slaughter plant, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer proposed a rule May 20 to completely ban the slaughter of nonambulatory, or downer, cattle that go down after initial inspection.
The secretary has asked the cattle and beef packing industry to voluntarily abide by the ban while the proposed rule is going through its final phases of approval and implementation.
Of the nearly 34 million cattle that were slaughtered last year, less than 1,000 cattle that were re-inspected were actually approved by the veterinarian for slaughter, Schafer said. This represents less than 0.003 percent of cattle slaughtered annually.
On June 24, Schafer met with representatives of the animal agricultural industries and the HSUS, with a goal of working cooperatively for ensuring the welfare of animals used for food production.
“The food animal production system failed these animals,” said W. Ron DeHaven, chief executive officer of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
“Everyone involved in animal agriculture, whether on farms or in processing facilities, shares an ethical responsibility to protect the health and welfare of animals used for food production.”
The veterinary association labeled the abuse as “inhumane” and “unacceptable” and issued a call for stricter adherence to humane animal handling guidelines and standards.
DeHaven cited the need for increased veterinary oversight throughout all stages of the food animal’s lifecycle.
“There’s no doubt about it, there must be veterinarians — to protect animal welfare and animal and public health — at every step on the road from farm to fork,” DeHaven said.
In May, an HSUS investigator worked at the Portales Livestock Auction and documented cows and calves being mistreated and tormented in order to get them to stand and walk into the auction ring. During the time covered by the investigation, New Mexico brand inspectors were present at the auctions and allegedly saw much of the abuse.