Just as the state is sealing the lid on its investigation into a stray case of Mad Cow Disease, the news hits that the U.S. Department of Agriculture shut down Central Valley Meat Co. in Hanford, California, yesterday after an animal rights group named Compassion Over Killing sent the federal regulatory body a video depicting cows being mistreated before they were killed. In a yet-to-be-released, hours-long film shot by a C.O.K. activist (their own acronym, not our's) who wrangled himself a job with the slaughterhouse, employees are allegedly shown repeatedly shocking and shooting the cows with a bolt-gun stunner, with one employee reportedly standing on a cow's muzzle to suffocate it and another cow being lifted to the killing area while still conscious and kicking.
The animal rights group professes shock at the treatment of these animals at a USDA-inspected plant, and raises even more eyebrows when detailing how the USDA also buys ground beef from this same factory for the likes of school lunch and emergency food programs. Meanwhile, the company's president released a statement, obtained by A.P. that claims, "We were extremely disturbed to be informed by the USDA that ... our plant could not operate based upon a videotape that was provided to the Department by a third party group that alleged inhumane treatment of animals on our property."
Sadly, it's not actually that hard to believe. The alleged mistreatment would be nothing new for California, recalling a 2008 scandal in which Chino-based Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing was shut down after video evidence surfaced that depicted so-called "downer cows" being cruelly treated and slaughtered for meat that eventually wound up on the plates of school children and residents of Native American reservations. Those findings sparked the biggest beef recall in U.S. history and led to six-month jail sentences for two of the plant's employees.
The plant at the heart of this week's scandal is currently closed as federal investigators continue looking into both company practices and federal safety inspections at Central Valley Meat Co. Could another massive recall be right around the corner, just when we thought rising beef prices would be our biggest concern when it came to California's cattle herds?