Undercover video purportedly shows dairy cows — some unable to walk — being repeatedly shocked and shot before being slaughtered.
Central Valley Meat Co., a major slaughterhouse in Hanford, Calif., was shut down Monday after an animal rights group sent a videotape to USDA, according to the Hanford Sentinel and the Associated Press (AP).
The video purportedly depicts inhumane treatment of cattle coming into the plant for slaughter. The footage shows dairy cows — some unable to walk — being repeatedly shocked and shot before being slaughtered, AP reported.
"We take these allegations seriously and we are committed to correcting any problems identified on the video as quickly as we possibly can," said company president Brian Coelho in a written statement.
Central Valley Meat Co. is cooperating fully with USDA in its investigation of the allegation, Coelho said, adding that the company has hired its own "animal welfare expert" to assist in an internal investigation.
The USDA received hours of videotape Friday from Compassion Over Killing, an animal welfare group, which said its undercover investigator was employed by the slaughterhouse and made the video over a two-week period in June, the AP report said.
"USDA considers inhumane treatment of animals at slaughter facilities to be unacceptable and is conducting a thorough investigation into these allegations," said Justin DeJong, spokesman for the Food Safety Inspection Service, told an AP reporter.
According to the AP report, four minutes of excerpts the animal welfare group provided to the news organization showed cows being prepared for slaughter. One worker appears to be suffocating a cow by standing on its muzzle after a gun that injects a bolt into the animal’s head had failed to render it unconscious. In another clip, a cow is still conscious and flailing as a conveyor lifts it by one leg for transport to an area where the animals’ throats are slit for blood draining.
"The horror caught on camera is sickening," said Erica Meier, executive director of Compassion Over Killing, based in Washington, D.C. "It’s alarming that this is not only a USDA-inspected facility but a supplier to the USDA."
Online USDA records show the company has contracted to sell ground beef to USDA food programs, AP said.
Within hours of seeing the video, the USDA’s Office of Inspector General sent investigators who found evidence of "egregious inhumane handling and treatment of livestock."
"FSIS suspended operations at the facility and is prepared to take further action as warranted by the investigation," DeJong said.