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March 24, 2010

HSUS Statement on USDA’s Decision to Settle its Administrative Complaint Against Bushway Slaughter Plant

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, made the following statement in response to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's decision to allow Bushway Packing to re-open under a new name:

"The USDA and the state of Vermont took swift action last October and closed the Bushway dairy calf slaughter plant in Grand Isle, Vermont, after HSUS presented evidence of extreme cruelty — evidence that showed newborn calves being dragged, kicked, shocked, and skinned while conscious by plant workers. Slaughter experts agreed that the HSUS videotape also showed conscious calves' throats being deeply cut as they hung by shackles on the slaughter line. USDA terminated the on-site inspector who took no enforcement action after watching some of these cruelties occur.

"The USDA's decision to allow the slaughter plant to reopen—under a new name and without former plant owner Frank Perretta—after nearly five months of being shut down raises serious concerns for The HSUS.

"Two of Peretta's former partners, Terry Rooney and John McCracken, have been allowed to reopen the slaughter plant. However, Mr. Rooney was on the slaughter plant floor almost every day the plant operated, and it was on the stunning floor where so many abuses occurred. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack deemed the mistreatment of the animals 'deplorable' and 'unequivocally unacceptable.' And it was Mr. McCracken's hauling company that off-loaded the calves. An HSUS investigator filmed the driver dragging calves by their ears and shocking them repeatedly when they could not stand. The re-opening of Bushway under a new name will not please anyone who watches the HSUS video of the egregious suffering endured by 'downer' calves unable to walk and often covered in feces.

"This case demonstrates that the enforcement mechanisms of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act need to be dramatically enhanced. We urge the USDA to use this case as a basis to improve oversight at slaughter plants nationally and to close the loophole that still allows downer calves to be slaughtered for food. And we hope Congress will upgrade the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act to include more meaningful deterrents for violations than a temporary suspension of plant operations. Civil fines and criminal penalties are needed. If there are not sufficient financial or criminal consequences for slaughter plant owners, operators and employees, there will be little incentive to follow the very modest rules entailed in the Act. We also encourage the State of Vermont to aggressively investigate, and, where warranted, prosecute any potential violations of state animal cruelty laws. "

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the Web at humanesociety.org.

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