It was yet another triumph of cheap meat over animal suffering. A week after the USDA closed Central Valley Meat Co. of Hanford, CA for egregious treatment of sick and dying dairy cows, the facility has reopened under pressure from lawmakers.
The alleged violations--cows thrashing after repeated shots in the head; one apparently suffocated; cows unable to stand, some with udders so swollen they couldn't keep their legs under them--do not "compromise" food safety and do not merit a "disastrous" work stoppage, said three California Republicans representing the agricultural Central Valley, Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy and Reps. Devin Nunes and Jeff Denham.
The animal suffering depicted is less important than jobs , said the lawmakers in getting the USDA to reverse its decision. And the week-long shutdown of Central Valley Meat Co. depressed beef prices and added to the economic hardship on farmers in the region! Why should farmers be penalized just because they sold animals who couldn't walk and who had been milked until they were "half dead"--a characterization from animal expert Temple Grandin upon viewing the Central Valley Meat Co. video?
The industry-before-ethics California lawmakers also questioned how the treatment of the dying downer cows could be abuse when two full-time USDA inspectors were present.
Perhaps the lawmakers need to read the congressional testimony of the late USDA veterinarian Dean Wyatt, who described how federal meat inspectors have been demoted into powerless figureheads, openly laughed at by plant managers in the US's increasingly privatized slaughterhouse industry. Another federal meat inspector, Lester Friedlander, describes the overwhelming pressure to never stop the production line, for humane or hygiene reasons, and predicted the National School Lunch Program was at risk.
When his prediction proved true and similar abuse of dairy cows was filmed at the Westland/Hallmark Meat Company in Chino, CA in 2008, the Los Angeles Times wrote, "The U.S. Department of Agriculture has 7,800 pairs of eyes scrutinizing 6,200 slaughterhouses and food processors across the nation. But in the end, it took an undercover operation by an animal rights group to reveal that beef from ill and abused cattle had entered the human food supply."