Cow Repeatedly Shot in the Head; PETA Seeks Federal Probe

For Immediate Release:
November 16, 2021

Contact:
David Perle 202-483-7382

Vernon County, Wis. – PETA has obtained a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture report revealing a recent violation of federal law at Nordik Meats, Inc., outside Viroqua, in which a worker shot a cow five times in the head with captive-bolt guns. The November 3 report reveals that the cow was still standing after the first three ineffective shots, and the inspector observed that the animal was still looking around the room after the fourth shot to his head. This is the facility’s third violation since August 2020, and in response, PETA sent a letter this morning calling on Acting U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin Timothy O’Shea to review these violations of the Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act and, as appropriate, file criminal charges against the facility and the workers responsible.

In November 2020, a lamb remained conscious and bleeding from the nose and mouth after two shots to the head, and in August 2020, a cow who was bleeding from her nose cried out and tried to escape while being shot repeatedly in the head, until the fifth shot finally ended her suffering.

“These disturbing eyewitness reports show that these animals endured prolonged, agonizing deaths at Nordik Meats,” says PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch. “PETA is calling for a federal investigation on these animals’ behalf and is urging everyone to help prevent more animals from suffering in slaughterhouses by going 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.

For more information on PETA’s investigative newsgathering and reporting, visit PETA.org or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

PETA’s letter to O’Shea follows.

November 16, 2021

The Honorable Timothy M. O’Shea

Acting United States Attorney

Western District of Wisconsin

Dear Mr. O’Shea,

I hope this letter finds you well. I would like to request that your office investigate and file appropriate criminal charges against Nordik Meats, Inc., and its workers responsible for repeated violations of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, which requires that animals be “rendered insensible to pain by a single blow … or other means that is rapid and effective, before being shackled, hoisted … or cut.”1 At the company’s slaughterhouse, located at E7342 Three Chimney Rd. in Vernon County, its staff shot cattle and a lamb in the head up to five times, leaving them wounded and suffering before finally being rendered unconscious, 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:

  • November 2, 2021: “Inspection Program Personnel (IPP) observed an establishment employee take five stun attempts, with a hand-held captive bolt device (HHCB), to render a [cow] unconscious. This was the first [cow] of the day to be slaughtered. The animal was placed into the headgate to secure [him or her] from freely moving. The first stun attempt was ineffective at rendering the animal unconscious. The animal was conscious and remained standing and moved [his or her] head. The stunning employee grabbed a backup pre-loaded HHCB and attempted to stun the animal again. The second stun attempt failed to render the animal unconscious and the animal remained standing and moved [his or her] head back and forth. The stunning employee reloaded the HHCB and attempted a third stun without successfully stunning the animal. The [cow] stayed standing and the IPP observed the fur on the head of the animal had gunpowder residue from the blanks used in the HHCB. After the fourth stun attempt, the animal fell to the floor. The stunning employee checked for consciousness. The animal blinked and was tracking movement with [his or her] eyes. The fifth and final stun attempt rendered the animal unconscious. … On post-mortem examination of the skull, IPP noticed five holes …”2
  • November 10, 2020: “IPP observed an establishment employee take three stunning attempts, with a hand-held captive bolt device, to render a lamb unconscious. … the lamb … was haltered and secured around a post to prevent movement. The first stun attempt was between the eyes. The lamb fell to the ground and tucked [his or her] legs under [him- or herself] in a sitting position, while conscious. The second stun attempt was in the same location as the first. IPP then observed blood come out of the nose and mouth of the lamb. After the second attempt, the lamb was still conscious [and] blinking, and [his or her] eyes were tracking sound. [The] Establishment Manager … took the re-loaded hand-held captive bolt gun and stunned the lamb at the top of the skull. It was effective in rendering the lamb unconscious.”3
  • August 19, 2020: “IPP heard vocalizing coming from the kill floor. IPP immediately entered the kill floor and witnessed … a conscious heifer, standing in the restrainer. The animal was bleeding from its nose and had a hole from a previous stunning attempt in the forehead. The animal was conscious, still standing and didn’t go down after this first observed stun attempt with the hand-held captive bolt gun. The plant manager had reloaded the primary hand-held captive bolt gun with the .22 blank. After the second observed unsuccessful stun attempt, the animal remained conscious, vocalized and tried to buck out of the restrainer. The third and fourth observed stun attempts were also unsuccessful, however, the conscious animal was starting to sway side to side in a standing position. The fifth observed stun attempt rendered the animal unconscious.”4

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 $1,000.5 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 both of the animals killed there and of 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”6 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.

Sincerely,

Colin Henstock

Assistant Manager of Investigations

1U.S. Congress, Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, 7 U.S.C. § 1902(a), (1958) https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/USCODE-2011-title7/pdf/USCODE-2011-title7-chap48-sec1902.pdf. Last accessed November 15, 2021.

2FSIS District Manager Dawn Sprouls, D.V.M., Notice of Suspension, Nordik Meats, Inc. (November 3, 2021) https://www.fsis.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media_file/2021-11/M47261-NOS-11032021.pdf. Last accessed November 15, 2021.

3FSIS District Manager Dawn Sprouls, D.V.M., Notice of Reinstatement of Suspension, Nordik Meats, Inc. (November 12, 2020) https://www.fsis.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media_file/2021-02/m47261-noros-11122020.pdf. Last accessed November 15, 2021.

4FSIS District Manager Dawn Sprouls, D.V.M., Notice of Suspension, Nordik Meats, Inc. (August 19, 2020) https://www.fsis.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media_file/2021-02/m47261-nos-08192020.pdf. Last accessed November 15, 2021.

5U.S. Congress, United States Code: Meat Inspection, 21 U.S.C. §§ 676(a), (1982) https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/USCODE-2010-title21/pdf/USCODE-2010-title21-chap12-subchapIV-sec676.pdf. Last accessed November 15, 2021.

6U.S. Department of Agriculture, FSIS, “Under Secretary for Food Safety Shares Some Insight on the Humane Handling of Livestock,” (January 7, 2011) https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2011/01/7/under-secretary-food-safety-shares-some-insight-humane-handling-livestock. Last accessed November 15, 2021.

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