Cow, Steer Shot Repeatedly in Head; PETA Seeks Federal Probe

For Immediate Release:
November 30, 2020

David Perle 202-483-7382

Allegan County, Mich.

PETA has just obtained a U.S. Department of Agriculture report revealing a new violation of federal law at Fillmore Beef Co. outside of Holland. In response, the group sent a letter this morning calling on U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Michigan Andrew Birge to review the violation of the Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act and, as appropriate, file criminal charges against the facility and the two workers responsible for repeatedly shooting a conscious cow in the head. The animal remained standing, moving back and forth and bleeding from her nose and head, even after the workers shot her twice and shot and missed four times because the gun misfired. The animal fell unconscious only after the seventh shot.

PETA is also asking Birge to review a similar violation that took place at the facility on August 28 involving a steer who remained standing and was bleeding after multiple failed attempts to render him unconscious by shooting him in the head.

“Animals victimized by the meat industry suffer terribly every single day, as this slaughterhouse’s repeated, gruesome violations show,” says PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch. “Anyone disturbed by these incidents can help by simply keeping animal flesh off their plates, which is the only way to stop this cruelty.”

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to eat”—opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview. The group notes that cows, steers, sheep, pigs, chickens, 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.

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PETA’s letter to U.S. Attorney Birge follows.

November 30, 2020

The Honorable Andrew Birge

United States Attorney

Western District of Michigan

Dear Mr. Birge,

I hope this letter finds you well. I would like to request that your office investigate and file appropriate criminal charges against Fillmore Beef Company 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 5812 142nd Ave. outside Holland, its staff repeatedly shot cattle in the head, leaving them wounded, bleeding, 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 6, 2020: “The SPHV [FSIS Supervisory Public Health Veterinarian] heard what sounded like an animal drop followed by vocalizing and resumed movement. The SPHV … could see a beef cow standing and it continued to vocalize. The animal was moving forward and backward in the knock box and was turning its head left and right. When the cow turned its head fully backward, the SPHV could see blood dripping from its nostril and blood could be seen dripping from a spot higher on its face. The employee stated to the SPHV that the animal had moved its head at the last second during the initial stunning attempt, and he confirmed that the captive bolt gun had made contact with the animal’s head. The cow proceeded to keep moving within the knock box and vocalizing while the establishment employee was attempting to place a second shot. The employee attempted a second and third shot, which were unsuccessful in rendering the animal unconscious. The SPHV handed the backup captive bolt gun to the employee, which was sitting on a ledge near where she was standing. The employee then attempted a fourth stun with the backup captive bolt gun, which also failed. A second establishment employee then took over and attempted to stun the animal three more times, with the seventh and final attempt being successful in rendering the cow unconscious …. The captive bolt guns did not properly fire multiple times during this process; the animal was struck a total of three times. Observation of the skinned head confirmed the initial first stunning attempt was located higher on the head. Two other holes were also visible; one located laterally and one centered properly.”2
  • August 28, 2020: “[T]he FSIS Consumer Safety Inspector (CSI) was alerted to the knock box area due to a prolonged time lapse between attempts to stun cattle. … The CSI observed a steer, conscious, standing within the knock box, moving back and forth, with blood evident on the poll area. The employee who had been performing stunning was attempting a corrective action stun on the steer. The employee removed the cartridge from the captive bolt device, reloaded the device, and attempted to stun the steer a second and then third time. Each time the device did not discharge. The employee retrieved the backup captive bolt device from the immediate area and attempted to fire the device twice but it also did not discharge. The employee retrieved the primary captive bolt device, removed the cartridge, reloaded the device, placed and discharged the device, effectively rendering the steer unconscious at that time. … The significant delay occurring between the initial and effective corrective action stun constitutes an egregious incident.”3

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 $1,000.4 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”5 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

17 U.S.C. § 1902.

2FSIS District 50 Manager Dr. Donald Fickey, Notice of Suspension, Fillmore Beef Company, Inc. (Nov. 6, 2020)

3FSIS Deputy District 50 Manager Dr. Tamara Davis, Notice of Intended Enforcement, Fillmore Beef Company, Inc. (Aug. 29, 2020)

421 U.S.C. § 676.

5U.S. Department of Agriculture, FSIS, “Under Secretary for Food Safety Shares Some Insight on the Humane Handling of Livestock,” (Jan. 7, 2011) (Last accessed on Nov. 30, 2020).

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