Cows Repeatedly Shot in the Head; PETA Seeks Federal Probe

For Immediate Release:
January 12, 2022

David Perle 202-483-7382

Burley, Idaho

PETA has obtained a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture report revealing a violation of federal law at IDA-Beef, outside Burley, in which an immobile, or “downed,” cow remained conscious, bleeding, and staggering as a worker shot the animal three times before a fourth shot by another worker finally rendered the animal unconscious. In response, PETA sent a letter this morning calling on the U.S. Attorney for the District of Idaho Rafael Gonzalez Jr. to review the slaughterhouse’s history of violations of the Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act and, as appropriate, file criminal charges against the facility and the workers responsible.

In the letter, PETA notes that this latest violation echoes two similar violations in 2019—one in which workers repeatedly shot two downed cows in the head and another in which a downed cow who had been shot in the head attempted to crawl away before being shot a second time.

“This latest disturbing eyewitness report shows that cows keep enduring prolonged, agonizing deaths at IDA-Beef,” 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 or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

PETA’s letter to Gonzalez follows.

January 12, 2022

The Honorable Rafael M. Gonzalez Jr.

United States Attorney

District of Idaho

Dear Mr. Gonzalez:

I hope this letter finds you well. I would like to request that your office investigate and file appropriate criminal charges against IDA-Beef LLC 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 729 S. 600 W. outside Burley, its staff repeatedly shot four immobile, conscious cows in the head—leaving them bleeding, staggering, and trying to crawl away—as documented in the enclosed reports by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

According to the reports, federal officials documented the following:

  • December 20, 2021: “[W]hile watching an establishment yards employee stun a non-ambulatory disabled Holstein cow, FSIS IPP [inspection program personnel] observed the following noncompliance. The employee placed the handheld captive bolt device against the cow’s head and fired the hand-held captive bolt device. The stun was ineffective, and the cow proceeded to blink multiple times and move [her] head in a controlled movement away from the employee. The employee immediately grabbed the backup handheld captive bolt device and applied a second ineffective stun. I observed bleeding from the hole in the cow’s head and I observed the cow completely rise to [her] feet, stagger for approximately 10 seconds, and then fall down. The employee reloaded the handheld captive bolt device and applied a third ineffective stun attempt, where the cow continued to blink and attempted to rise again. The employee reloaded the handheld captive bolt device again and approximately one minute after the third stun attempt, a second yards employee ran over and applied the fourth stun attempt, which was successful in rendering the cow unconscious.”2
  • May 29, 2019: “[T]he stun operator and the quality assurance monitor were inside the pen with the non-ambulatory dairy cow. The CSI [consumer safety inspector] observed the stun operator holding the primary hand-held captive bolt (HHCB) device and the quality assurance monitor holding a back-up HHCB device. The stun operator applied the first stun attempt to the non-ambulatory dairy cow. The CSI observed the rod of the primary HHCB contact the cow’s skull. The CSI observed a dark gray spot with hair sticking out on the cow’s skull. … Following the first stunning attempt, the cow remained conscious with eyes wide open and blinking; ears erect and started to crawl away. The cow did not vocalize. The CSI observed the stun operator reload the primary HHCB by unscrewing the gun, removing the shell and the quality assurance monitor placed a new shell in the gun, then the stun operator screwed the HHCB device back together. The stun operator applied a second stun attempt, which rendered the cow unconscious.”3
  • January 10, 2019: “[T]he CSI … observed two non-ambulatory cattle in the corner of the pen. The black cow was facing the opposite position of the brown cow, laying end to end with each other. … [Redacted] returned to the pens with a captive bolt stunner to euthanize the black cow. The first attempt at stunning the cow sounded muffled and weak. At this time [redacted] checked the consciousness of the cow and determined [she] needed a second [shot]. [Redacted] left the pen area and went inside to retrieve different cartridges. … At this time, it was apparent the black cow was still conscious. [The CSI] observed [the cow’s] head was raised straight up; there was steam coming from the black cow’s nostrils; and rhythmic breathing could be observed. Upon returning, [redacted] delivered a second [shot]. The head of the cow finally dropped. After a few moments, the head of the black cow started to raise straight back up again. [Redacted] delivered a third [shot] to the black cow. … [Redacted] made the decision to euthanize the brown cow [who] was still pinned up against the rail of the pen by the now deceased black cow. … [The CSI] observed a plant employee deliver a captive bol[t] [shot] to the brown cow. … [A]pproximately 5 minutes later … the brown cow raised [her] head off the carcass of the black cow, straight up above it. … [The CSI] immediately notified [redacted] that the brown cow appeared to be exhibiting signs of returning to consciousness. … A trail of blood was streaming down the brown cow’s face. As the plant employee moved into the pen with the captive bol[t] stunner, the brown cow raised [her] head once more straight up. … A second [shot] was delivered to the brown cow and [her] head fell and rested on the black cow once more.”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 of both the animals who are 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”6 with offices such as yours, we respectfully ask that you collaborate with the FSIS Office of Investigation, Enforcement and Audit’s Enforcement and Litigation Division to investigate and bring appropriate criminal charges against those responsible for these 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


1U.S. Congress. Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, 7 U.S.C. § 1902(a), (1958) Last accessed January 11, 2022.

2FSIS District 15 Manager Dr. Robert Reeder, Notice of Intended Enforcement, IDA-Beef LLC (December 21, 2021) Last accessed January 11, 2022.

3FSIS District 15 Acting Manager Dawn Sprouls, D.V.M., Notice of Suspension, Est. M45948, IDA-Beef LLC (May 29, 2019).

4FSIS District 15 Acting Manager Dawn Sprouls, D.V.M., Notice of Intended Enforcement, Est. M45948, IDA-Beef LLC (January 10, 2019).

5U.S. Congress, United States Code: Meat Inspection, 21 U.S.C. §§ 676(a), (1982) Last accessed January 11, 2022.

6U.S. Department of Agriculture, FSIS, “Under Secretary for Food Safety Shares Some Insight on the Humane Handling of Livestock,” (January 7, 2011) Last accessed January 11, 2022.

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