Criminal Probe Sought: Cows Shot Repeatedly in Head

For Immediate Release:
July 8, 2020

David Perle 202-483-7382

Lynchburg, Va.

PETA has obtained U.S. Department of Agriculture reports revealing recent violations of law at Seven Hills Abattoir in Lynchburg. In response, we sent a letter this morning calling on the Lynchburg Commonwealth’s attorney to review the matter and, as appropriate, file criminal cruelty-to-animals charges against the facility and the workers responsible for violations made on June 5 and 12. Inspectors documented that a metal bolt was lodged in one conscious cow’s skull, another animal who had been ineffectively shot in the head was hanging upside down while conscious and lifting her head, and a third suffered from a head wound after being shot until a worker shot the animal a second time.

“These disturbing reports show that these cows experienced prolonged, agonizing deaths at Seven Hills Abattoir,” says PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch. “PETA is calling for a criminal investigation on behalf of the cows 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 cows, bulls, 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 Lynchburg Commonwealth’s Attorney Bethany A.S. Harrison follows.

July 8, 2020

The Honorable Bethany A.S. Harrison

Lynchburg Commonwealth’s Attorney

Dear Ms. Harrison,

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 Seven Hills Abattoir and the worker(s) responsible for repeatedly shooting three cows in the head on June 5 and June 12 at its slaughterhouse located at 1803 Holiday St. in Lynchburg. The botched shots left a metal bolt lodged in one animal’s skull, another animal hanging upside down while conscious, and a third with a hole in his or her head. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) documented the incidents in the attached reports, which state the following:

June 12, 2020: “IPP [Inspection Program Personnel] watched the employee moving his hand around while holding a 25-caliber hand-held captive bolt device (HHCB) in an attempt to stun [a bovine]. The employee rendered a stun with the captive bolt gun, but the animal did not drop. The animal remained standing with no vocalization but remained agitated. A second employee came up into the knock box area to assist and reloaded the captive bolt and attempted a second time to knock the animal. The second employee successfully rendered the animal unconscious with the 2nd stun using the same HHCB. After the animal’s head had been removed and skinned, IPP noted that there were two (2) penetrating wounds; one hole located low and to the right of the ideal stunning location (there was bruising of the surrounding tissue, and the hole did not appear to penetrate as deep as the second hole) and a second hole located in the correct position for stunning. IPP confirmed with the second employee that the incorrectly placed hole was a result of the first ineffective stun attempt.”1

June 8, 2020: “At approximately 8:50am on June 5, 2020 … IPP … observed a conscious animal on the rail. IPP observed a heifer that had been stunned, shackled, and hoisted, but which had not yet been stuck for bleeding. IPP observed the heifer breathing, exhibiting tracking eye movement, and lifting its head as if attempting to stand (i.e. the righting reflex). At this time, the associate immediately reloaded the 25-caliber … HHCB … and delivered an effective stun to the back of the head/poll. Following the incident, IPP confirmed that the heifer had been stunned initially using the HHCB, but the stun placement was incorrect (i.e. to the left of center on the skull). … At approximately 11:15am … IPP observed an establishment employee attempt to stun a beef cow using the 25-caliber HHCB. Following the initial stun attempt, the bolt of the HHCB became lodged in the skull of the cow and the cow remained standing. After attempts to dislodge the HHCB from the cow’s skull, the employee asked if he should use the shotgun to re-stun the cow, and IPP instructed the employee to do so. The employee retrieved the backup 20-gauge shotgun and immediately administered an effective second stun, rendering the animal unconscious.”2

This conduct appears to violate Va. Code § 3.2-6570. Importantly, FSIS action does not preempt criminal liability under state law for slaughterhouse workers who perpetrate acts of cruelty to animals.3

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

[1]FSIS District 80 Manager Todd Furey, Notice of Reinstatement of Suspension, Seven Hills Abattoir, Est. M46877 (June 12, 2020)

2FSIS District 80 Manager Todd Furey, Revised Notice of Suspension, Seven Hills Abattoir, Est. M46877 (June 8, 2020)

3See 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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