U.S. Agriculture Secretary Takes Hitting Sick Cows With Forklifts Seriously

WHO: U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer
WHAT: Undercover video taken by animal rights activists shows cows too ill to walk being lifted and prodded into the slaughter box with forklifts. Sick cows are not supposed to enter the food supply because they carried increased risk of mad cow disease. The activity in the video went on while USDA inspectors were supposedly supervising the facility. The meatpacking company in question produces beef for use in public school lunches.
WHERE:California plant accused of torturing unfit cows [Reuters]
THE QUOTE:“First of all, this issue is taken very seriously by the USDA employees responsible for this area,” he told reporters. “Obviously, there is a full investigation and inspection going on today.”

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  1. Jaysyn was banned for: http://consumerist.com/5032912/the-subprime-meltdown-will-be-nothing-compared-to-the-prime-meltdown#c7042646 says:

    There are public schools that actually get beef for lunch? We had soyburgers. Everyday. It was either that or pizza.

  2. Sian says:

    but.. but.. HAPPY COWS come from California! My worldview has been shattered! These cows, they are not happy!

  3. dregina says:

    bleh. gross, gross, gross.

  4. homerjay says:

    Thats a snappy new check-mark logo ya got there.

  5. ninabi says:

    And the USDA seriously cut back on their testing for mad cow just recently. “Don’t seek, won’t find” is a crappy public health policy. Apparently at the low rate they are checking, they won’t find another Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy for another 6 years.

    Foisting contaminated meat on the youngest shows how little the USDA regard children and animal welfare and how much they regard corporate profit.

  6. Spamwich says:

    @Sian: hahaha I just saw that ad recently here in Canada, made me chuckle then but now it seems downright ridiculous :)

  7. Mr. Guy says:

    @homerjay:

    i’m with you. That logo lets me know the problem is being dealt with in a timely and effective manner.

  8. Landru says:

    @ninabi:

    This is what happens when neocons are in power.

  9. rg says:

    Mad cow beef in CA school lunches…that explains a lot! It might be better to cook this stuff up and make nice little brown bag lunches for the hordes crossing our borders illegally!

  10. forever_knight says:

    @ninabi: yes, exactly why i avoid any and all ground beef products.

  11. crazypants says:

    I’ll say it once and I’ll say it again:

    The USDA should install cameras in every major slaughterhouse and feed all the video output to a centralized location.

    Hell, said video feed should be placed on the usda’s website, so we the people can look and see for ourselves where and how our food comes from.

    The cost for this would be minimal, and if they made the video feed available to the public, they wouldn’t need to police the video themselves, as I’m sure groups like PETA would love to monitor it for them and bring any and all outrageous violations such as these to their attention.

  12. bohemian says:

    Some of this recalled beef was pulled at our teenagers HS. When I told him it was a combination of mad and turning green. He has since quit eating via the school.

  13. bohemian says:

    @crazypants: That is a great idea. It would also help with the shortfall in staff right now. If a camera goes down or gets moved, covered etc. give the USDA the ability to immediately shut down the plant until the situation is fixed.

  14. bkonkel says:

    Wow, that new logo is perfect.

  15. crazypants says:

    @bohemian: Thanks! I really do think something like this would bring about a monumental change as to how American’s consume meat.

    Meat plants that treat their cows humanely and respectfully would experience a huge boost in sales as word got around, while meat plants run by sadistic douchebags would have plummeting sales as a result.

    Implementing something like this would truly allow us as consumers to financially reward companies that are responsible and financially penalize companies that are not. (Which is how the free market is supposed to work anyway – the only reason they can get away with this at the present moment is that there is really no accountability except for the occasional PETA person who sneaks in with a video camera.)

    Granted the video feed would be a little gruesome, no real way to avoid that, but really no more gruesome than your average nightly news show.

    Better yet, if the USDA installed *hidden* cameras, they could get away with installing perhaps just one or two in key locations. If the workers didn’t know the exact location of the cameras, they’d be forced to act as though they were on videotape wherever they went on the premises of their work.

    Of course, if these meat plants simply paid their workers a better wage, I’m sure people would suddenly start caring way more about their job, and act the part of a responsible employee instead of acting like they have nothing to lose by mistreating the livestock.

    PS: I love steak – medium rare and bloody. mmm.

  16. m4ximusprim3 says:

    @crazypants: It’s a great idea except that sales of beef would plummet when people actually had to equate their red hunk of steak with that “happy cow” getting forklifted into the slaughter-box.

    On a different note, I am all for the “TAKEN SERIOUSLY” stamp. I feel that this stamp should be used from now on to hammer home how seriously companies take things. Also, I think companies should be forced to buy rubber stamps which say this and certify all complaint letters with them before they are allowed to discard the letter and laugh.

  17. amccoll says:

    That’s sick. Don’t they profile people who torture animals as future serial killers?

  18. Fujikopez says:

    Ed Shafer is a nice guy. I’ve met him a few times. He used to be the governor of North Dakota.

    I hope he really does “take it seriously”.

  19. crazypants says:

    @m4ximusprim3: The majority of the population wouldn’t look into it and wouldn’t care.

    The only people who would ‘tune in’ to such a video feed would be the sorts of people who already invest massive amounts of time trying to keep these meat facilities in check, and word would slowly trickle down to the population at large that “Hey, such and such company likes to poke cows in the eyeball with sporks!”

    Even if no cameras were installed on the slaughterlines, they could at least be installed where the cows eat/sleep. Ever watch the history channel’s Modern Marvels episode on milk production? Some of those facilities were real class acts and respected their livestock, giving them fields to roam in, etc.

    The meat companies would probably end up *making* money if they installed cameras and let the public see how fantastic they treated their livestock outside of the slaughterhouse.

    It sounds sort of odd, but I assure you, theres lots of wiggle room to implement this idea in a way that would benefit both customers and the meat plant executive’s bottom line.

    I know that as a consumer, I would tune in at least once to see my future meals at play – frolicking in a meadow, and such imagery would fill me with a sense of satisfaction that the meal I’m eating was once a cow who was treated with respect.

  20. crazypants says:

    Just wanted to append something to the previous post:

    At the moment, I don’t give a hoot where my meat comes from, but I know for a fact that if I had someway of knowing that company ABC doesn’t care about their livestock, but company XYZ does, I’d be damn sure to support company XYZ with my purchases, and actively avoid companies like ABC.

  21. Rhyss says:

    I know that I don’t eat only free-range no-hormones etc., but I only buy that kind of meat. The camera’s would be a great idea – I wish a company would jump on the band-wagon. I too would rather eat formerly happy cows.

  22. crazypants says:

    You know whats sad? We as consumers could never implement such a change on our own, even if we got petitions out the wingwang together – but if a company such as Walmart decided to only purchase beef from a company that took measures to prove just how humane they treated their livestock before sending them off to the slaughterhouse, we’d have accountability like this put into place in a matter of days.

  23. snoop-blog says:

    if the planet wasn’t so over populated, we could run farms the way they are supposed to be run.

  24. @crazypants: “Of course, if these meat plants simply paid their workers a better wage, I’m sure people would suddenly start caring way more about their job, and act the part of a responsible employee instead of acting like they have nothing to lose by mistreating the livestock.”

    To a point. One of the problems with factory-style slaughterhouses that we don’t talk about much (because, legitimately, food safety and animal cruelty are much more visible, and equally as important) is that many (most?) people who slaughter animals day after day after day, especially assembly-line style, eventually begin to develop some psychological problems. Basically, they get desensitized to death and cruelty.

    One partial solution is to rotate employees through various stations so they’re not doing the same task mindlessly day after day for years on end. But it’s still pretty dehumanizing for a lot of people.

    (The issue is volume, not slaughter in and of itself; it’s the constant, ongoing nature of it that messes with people’s heads. People who work two days a week at a slaughterhouse don’t typically develop the same problems.)

  25. thatgirlinnewyork says:

    @ninabi: Cut back?? They never instituted any such program. I read one estimate that they copped to testing one cow for every 400,000 head. Is anyone comfortable with this?

  26. Beerad says:

    @snoop-blog: Two instant problems with that:

    1) The planet isn’t necessarily “overpopulated” — globally we produce more than enough food to feed every human (and can even produce way more if Americans realize they don’t need a pound of meat with every meal), although there are certainly issues getting that food to where it’s needed. Yes, a lower population would mean less scarcity of resources per capita, but that’s always true regardless of the population level.

    2) Thanks for volunteering to never have kids and help decrease the surplus population!