The Humane Society of United States’ recent undercover investigation of a southern California slaughterhouse is shocking – with cows unable to move being rammed with the blades of a forklift, jabbed in the eyes, stabbed with electric prods and sprayed in the nose with high-pressure water hoses. Animal experts have called this one of the worst cases of animal abuse they have ever seen. Why did Hallmark Meat Packing workers violently torment these animals? Profit. So-called “downed” animals (animals who are too sick or injured to stand or walk on their own) are not allowed into the human food supply, so getting them to stand long enough to pass USDA inspection meant Hallmark could slaughter them for meat.
Unfortunately, this kind of abuse is probably not uncommon. The good news is the public can do something about it. In fact, here are five steps you can take to help end such cruelty:
1. Go vegan. By keeping meat and dairy products off your plate, you are no longer supporting the industries directly responsible for the egregious abuses revealed in the HSUS’ investigation. With so many delicious, nutritious plant-based foods available, being vegan is easier than ever. Visit www.GoVeg.com or www.TryVeg.com for suggestions.
2. Contact the USDA. Email Secretary of Agriculture Edward Schafer at Edward.W.Schafer@usda.gov. Tell him to close the loophole created by inconsistent agency regulations that permits the kind of inhumane treatment of animals demonstrated by Hallmark Meat Packing. Demand that downed animals not enter the food chain, as they pose a danger to consumers (12 of the 15 identified cases of bovine spongiform encephalopathy – “mad cow disease” – in North America originated from downed cows). Request that USDA inspectors be present at slaughter plants on a regular basis to ensure humane standards are maintained.
3. Contact policymakers. Urge your legislators to support or introduce legislation to help downed animals. The Farm Animal Stewardship Purchasing Act (H.R. 1726) would set modest animal welfare standards, including humane euthanasia of any downed animals, for producers who sell food to federal government programs, while the Downed Animal Protection Act (S. 394 and H.R. 661) would ban any slaughtering of downed animals for human consumption.
4. Educate yourself. Agribusiness gets away with such animal abuse because it’s carried out away from public view. Visit www.hsus.org and learn more about its investigation of Hallmark Meat Packing. Visit www.nodowners.org for details on what downed animals are forced to endure. Whatever your views on meat-eating, you’re likely opposed to treating animals so cruelly.
5. Tell others. If you agree that downed animals deserve humane treatment, share your feelings with family, friends and co-workers. Encourage them to speak up for these defenseless creatures – animals whose illness or injuries are the result of callous treatment received even before they reached the slaughterhouse. Write letters to editors of newspapers and magazines expressing your feelings.
We ask an awful lot of the animals we raise and slaughter for food. The very least we owe them is a painless death.Mark Hawthorne is an animal activist and the author of Striking at the Roots: A Practical Guide to Animal Activism (strikingattheroots.com).