Cow Repeatedly Shot in the Head; PETA Seeks Criminal Probe

For Immediate Release:
March 16, 2021

David Perle 202-483-7382

Fargo, N.D.

PETA has obtained a U.S. Department of Agriculture report revealing a recent violation of law at the North Dakota State University Meat Laboratory in Fargo. In response, the group sent a letter this morning calling on Cass County State’s Attorney Birch P. Burdick to review the matter and, as appropriate, file criminal cruelty-to-animals charges against the facility and the worker responsible for shooting a cow in the head three times as she remained standing, crying out, and bleeding from her nose and a wound near her eyes. A manager disassembled and reassembled the gun, but it misfired before a fifth shot finally rendered the cow unconscious.

“This disturbing report shows that a gentle cow experienced a prolonged, agonizing death at the North Dakota State University Meat Laboratory,” says PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch. “PETA is calling for a criminal investigation on behalf of the cow who suffered at this facility and urging all compassionate members of the public who are disturbed by this cruelty to go vegan and help prevent more animals from suffering in slaughterhouses.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to eat”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. The group notes that cows, pigs, chickens, sheep, and other animals feel pain and fear and value their lives, just as humans do, and that the only 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 Burdick follows.

March 16, 2021

The Honorable Birch Burdick

Cass County State’s Attorney

Dear Mr. Burdick:

I hope this letter finds you well. I would like to request that your office (and the proper local law enforcement agency, as you deem appropriate) investigate and file suitable criminal charges against the North Dakota State University Meat Laboratory and the worker responsible for repeatedly shooting a conscious, crying cow in the head on February 22 at its slaughterhouse located at 1350 Albrecht Blvd. in Fargo. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) documented the incident in the attached report, which states the following:

“An establishment employee attempted to stun a heifer with a hand-held captive bolt device. The first attempt was ineffective as the heifer remained conscious. The heifer vocalized immediately after the hand-held captive bolt was fired, continued blinking, and remained standing. The establishment employee immediately reloaded the hand-held captive bolt and attempted a second stunning procedure. After the second attempt, the animal remained conscious and continued vocalizing, blinking, and standing. Blood was observed coming out of the nose of the heifer as well as a wound approximately halfway between the eyes and nose. A third attempt, with the same hand-held captive bolt device, by the same employee, again left the animal conscious; it continued vocalizing, blinking, and standing. The establishment interim manager then disassembled, reassembled, and reloaded the hand-held captive bolt. The fourth attempt to stun the animal was made by the interim plant manager. Upon firing the hand-held captive bolt while the bolt was in contact with the animal’s head, the stunning round inside the captive bolt misfired. The hand-held captive bolt was reloaded with a new stunning blank and on the fifth attempt, the animal was rendered insensible … [FSIS personnel] then observed the skull of the heifer. Three holes, approximately less than or equal to a half inch below the brain were observed [and] showed evidence that all three [ineffective shots] missed the brain.”1

This conduct may violate N.D.C.C. § 36-21.2-02, as repeatedly shooting an animal in the head is not a usual and customary livestock industry practice that would otherwise be exempt from prosecution. Importantly, FSIS action does not preempt criminal liability under state law for slaughterhouse workers who perpetrate acts of cruelty to animals.2

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 25 Manager Dr. Dawn Sprouls, Notice of Suspension, North Dakota State University Meat Laboratory (Feb. 22, 2021)

2See Nat’l. Meat Assoc. v. Harris, 132 S. Ct. 965, 974 n.10 (2012) (“. . . States may exact civil or criminal penalties for animal cruelty or other conduct that also violates the [Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA)]. See [21 U.S.C.] §678; cf. Bates v. Dow Agrosciences, LLC, 544 U.S. 431, 447 (2005) (holding that a preemption clause barring state laws ‘in addition to or different’ from a federal Act does not interfere with an ‘equivalent’ state provision). Although the FMIA preempts much state law involving slaughterhouses, it thus leaves some room for the States to regulate.”).

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