Conscious Cow Dragged by Tail; PETA Seeks Federal Probe

For Immediate Release:
May 18, 2021

David Perle 202-483-7382

Modesto, Calif.

PETA has obtained a U.S. Department of Agriculture report revealing a recent violation of federal law at Western Meat Processing in Modesto. In response, the group sent a letter this morning to Phillip Talbert, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California, calling on him to review the matter and, as appropriate, file criminal charges against the person responsible for dragging a conscious, downed cow by her tail off a truck trailer. The animal was dropped onto the concrete loading dock before a supervisor shot her in the head.

PETA is also asking Talbert to review a previous incident in which a Western Meat Processing worker beat a cow in the face with a paddle.

“These disturbing reports show that cows experienced agonizing abuse at Western Meat Processing,” says PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch. “PETA is calling for a federal investigation on behalf of the cows who suffered at this facility and urging anyone who is disturbed by this cruelty to go vegan.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to eat”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. The group notes that cows, sheep, pigs, chickens, and other animals feel pain and fear and value their lives, just as humans do, and that the best way to help prevent them from suffering in slaughterhouses is not to eat them.

For more information, visit or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

PETA’s letter to Talbert follows.

May 18, 2021

The Honorable Phillip A. Talbert

Acting United States Attorney

Eastern District of California

Dear Mr. Talbert,

I hope this letter finds you well. I would like to request that your office investigate and file appropriate criminal charges against those responsible for repeated violations of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act at Western Meat Processing, Inc., located at 725 Zeff Rd., Modesto. There, federal inspectors witnessed personnel beating a cow in the face and dragging a second, downed cow by the tail, as documented in the attached reports by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

According to the reports, federal officials documented the following:

  • April 29, 2021: “The CSI [Consumer Safety Inspector] … came upon [a cattle hauler] dragging a conscious, non-ambulatory Jersey cow by [her] tail through the rear of the trailer and out onto the concrete unloading floor, dropping the cow onto the ground. The cow was in the rear of the trailer, approximately 2 feet inside on the trailer’s floor …. The cow was … on her side and did not attempt to rise after being removed from the trailer. The trailer was approximately four inches above the concrete unloading floor. An establishment employee was observing the unloading procedures.”1
  • March 15, 2018: “[T]he FSIS Supervisory Public Health Veterinarian (SPHV) … heard a cow vocalize outside the knock box. The SPHV immediately proceeded to the knock box area and observed your employees standing on a platform directly above the knock box …. One of the employees … was standing directly above the second cow and hitting [her] in the face repeatedly with a hard plastic rattle paddle mounted on the end of a plastic pole. The SPHV instructed the employee to stop hitting the animal, but due to the force and increasing intensity of the strikes, the employee did not initially hear the SPHV’s instructions. The SPHV observed the employee holding the paddle like an axe to strike the animal on the face and nose, and he observed the animal lifting and moving [her] head away after the impact of the strikes. The SPHV again immediately instructed the employee to stop hitting the animal and he finally stopped. … This is an egregious act of inhumane handling of animals in connection with slaughter, as your employee was striking the cow in an aggressive manner.”2

The Federal Meat Inspection Act classifies such offenses as misdemeanors and provides penalties of imprisonment of up to one year and/or a fine of up to $1,000.3 The fact that inhumane handling persists at the establishment makes it clear that FSIS enforcement actions alone are insufficient to deter future violations and that criminal prosecution is in the best interests of the animals killed there and the public. Given that the FSIS “fully supports the investigation of all those involved in alleged violations of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act” and that “[i]nvestigators from [its] enforcement division and from USDA’s Inspector General … stand ready to work”4 with offices such as yours, we respectfully ask that you collaborate with the FSIS Office of Investigation, Enforcement and Audit (OIEA)’s Enforcement and Litigation Division (ELD) to investigate and bring appropriate criminal charges against those responsible for the above violations.

Please let us know what we might do to assist you. Thank you for your consideration and for the difficult work that you do.


Colin Henstock

Assistant Manager of Investigations

1FSIS District 05 Manager William Griffin, Notice of Suspension, Western Meat Processing, Inc., Est. M44824 (April 30, 2021)

2FSIS District 05 Manager Yudhbir Sharma, D.V.M., Notice of Suspension, Western Meat Processing, Inc., Est. M44824 (March 15, 2018)

321 U.S.C. § 676.

4Elisabeth Hagen, “Under Secretary for Food Safety Shares Some Insight on the Humane Handling of Livestock,” U.S. Department of Agriculture FSIS (Feb. 21, 2017) (Last accessed on May 16, 2021).

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