January 27, 2014
USDA Shutters Calf Slaughter Plant in New Jersey in Wake of HSUS Investigation
Undercover investigation reveals abusive handling and inhumane slaughter
Shrewsbury, N.J. – The U.S. Department of Agriculture reacted strongly to a complaint filed by The Humane Society of the United States, ordering Catelli Bros. of Shrewsbury to suspend its operations on Friday for egregious inhumane handling of calves in violation of federal law. The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service withdrew its federal inspectors, which are required for slaughter operations. The HSUS commended the agency for its enforcement action, and called on USDA to close a loophole in federal policy that allows the slaughter of "downed" veal calves—those too sick or injured to walk on their own—and does not give calves the same protections as adult cattle.
The enforcement action comes after federal officials reviewed a legal complaint and video footage provided by The HSUS showing serious and systematic violations of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. The investigation included compelling evidence of:
- Still-conscious calves struggling while hanging upside down on a conveyor belt;
- Calves being shot numerous times before reaching unconsciousness;
- A truck driver dragging a downed calf with a chain around his neck;
- Plant managers twisting downed calves' ears and tails when they were too exhausted or weak to stand, lifting the entire weight of some calves by their tails, and telling employees never to do the same when USDA inspectors are watching; and
- Employees shocking, hitting, and spraying calves with water.
"Downed calves are still suffering the sort of appalling abuses that we exposed in 2009 at another calf slaughter plant in Vermont," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO for The HSUS. "We commend USDA for taking action to shut down the operation at Catelli Brothers, but it's long past time to close the loophole in the downed animal rule that perpetuates continuing cruelty to young calves."
Bernie Rollin, distinguished professor of animal science at Colorado State University, watched the video and wrote [PDF], "Of all the atrocity videos I have viewed, the current video of the slaughterhouse at Catelli Brothers must be ranked among the three worst….The conclusion to be drawn from this video data is self-evident. This plant should be closed down immediately…."
- The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act requires that unconsciousness be accomplished by one shot whether the stunner is using a firearm, a pneumatic “mushroom” stunner, or a captive-bolt stun gun. USDA enforces the law for the slaughter of mammals such as cattle and pigs, but exempts poultry, which represent the vast majority of animals slaughtered for food.
- A "downed" animal is one who is too injured, sick, tired or cold to stand or walk.
- In 2009, following an investigation at the Bushway calf slaughter plant in Vermont, The HSUS filed a petition with the USDA asking the agency to close a loophole in the HMSA that allows slaughter plants to set aside calves who are too weak or cold to rise to their feet to be slaughtered. Adult cows who are downed are already required to be euthanized immediately and not be used for human consumption. USDA announced in March 2013 that it is granting The HSUS petition, but has not yet finalized the rule.
- The Catelli Bros. plant conducts both conventional slaughter and kosher slaughter of veal calves.