Criminal Probe Sought by PETA: Conscious Cow Shot in the Head Five Times

For Immediate Release:
September 9, 2020

David Perle 202-483-7382

Viroqua, Wis.

PETA has obtained a U.S. Department of Agriculture report revealing a recent violation of law at Nordik Meats outside Viroqua. In response, the group sent a letter today calling on the Vernon County district attorney to review the matter and, as appropriate, file criminal cruelty-to-animals charges against the facility and the worker who shot a cow in the head five times. According to the August 19 incident report, after the first shot, the cow was left crying out, bleeding from her nose, and with a hole in her head. After the second shot, she tried to escape. After the third and fourth shots, she swayed back and forth. The fifth shot finally stunned her. A federal inspector later found four wounds in the cow’s head, including one that was a full inch in diameter.

“This disturbing report shows that this cow experienced a prolonged, agonizing death at Nordik Meats,” 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, which is a human-supremacist worldview. The group notes that cattle, 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 Vernon County District Attorney Timothy Gaskell follows.

September 9, 2020

The Honorable Timothy Gaskell

District Attorney

Vernon County

Dear Mr. Gaskell,

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 Nordik Meats, Inc., and the staff responsible for shooting a conscious heifer at least five times in her head on August 19 at its slaughterhouse located at E7342 Three Chimney Rd., outside Viroqua. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) documented the incident in the attached report, which states the following:

[Inspection program personnel] 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.1

This conduct appears to violate Wis. Stat. § 951.02. Importantly, FSIS action doesn’t 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

Investigations Specialist

1FSIS District Manager Dawn Sprouls, D.V.M., Notice of Intended Suspension (August 19, 2020) <>.

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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