A downer for dairy

03:16PM Jun 16, 2008
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Guerilla videos of downer cows at four auction markets in Maryland, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Texas released last month gave the industry its second black eye, following the Westland/Hallmark video earlier this year.

While many in the livestock industry will blame the messenger, the livestock industry—from dairy producers to livestock market managers to slaughter houses--must take responsibility to ensure these scenes are never repeated.

First and foremost, these animals deserve to be treated humanely and well. Animals too sick or too weak or too injured to move must either be nursed back to health prior to shipment or euthanized on the farm if there's little hope of recovery.

If animals go down while in transit or while at an auction market or when they reach slaughter plants, they must be dealt with quickly and humanely.

Second, downer cows are a public relations fiasco. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) videos suggest such downer cow treatment is standard operating procedure.
The consequences of the first HSUS video at the Westland/Hallmark slaughter house in California earlier this year was the recall of 143 million pounds of beef. It was the largest beef recall in history, and resulted in the eventual closure of the plant.

Third, these videos should put every livestock producer in the country on notice that any neglect of animals on their operations could end up on YouTube. All it takes is an animal rights activist to drive by your dairy, point his or her cell phone toward a sick, abandoned animal, and you become an instant, YouTube celebrity.