Federal Probe Sought: Conscious Animals Shot Repeatedly

For Immediate Release:
September 24, 2019

Contact:
David Perle 202-483-7382

Garrett County, Md. – PETA has obtained U.S. Department of Agriculture reports revealing repeated violations of federal law at Working H Meats in Garrett County. In response, PETA sent a letter today calling on the U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland 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 for repeatedly shooting cattle in the head, leaving them conscious and suffering. This month, Working H Meats received a suspension for shooting a steer in the head three times, before a fourth shot finally ended his suffering. In March, a worker shot a bull four times before rendering him unconscious. Last year, workers botched the shooting of another bull, who was left conscious and suffering while an employee went home to get a bigger rifle.

“These disturbing eyewitness reports show that these animals experienced prolonged, agonizing deaths at Working H Meats,” says PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch. “PETA is calling for a federal investigation on behalf of the animals 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 enduring cruel treatment 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—as well as sheep, pigs, chickens, and other animals—have a central nervous system and a sense of self-preservation, just as humans do, and that the only way to help prevent them from suffering in slaughterhouses is not to eat them.

For more information, please visit PETA.org.

PETA’s letter to U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur follows.

September 24, 2019

The Honorable Robert K. Hur

United States Attorney

District of Maryland

Dear Mr. Hur,

I hope this letter finds you well. I would like to request that your office investigate and file appropriate criminal charges against Working H Meats, 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 5481 Friendsville Rd. in Garrett County, its staff shot cattle in the head up to four times on three occasions, 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:

  • September 5, 2019: “[E]stablishment employees attempted to stun an Angus steer using a .22 Magnum rifle. The first stun attempt was ineffective, and the steer remained standing and moving [his] head in the knock box. The employee then attempted two (2) more stunning attempts using the same .22 Magnum rifle, with each attempt being ineffective and resulting in the steer remaining standing and moving around in the knock box. The employee then administered a fourth (4th) stun using a .308 rifle …. On examination of the head … there were four (4) penetrating wounds in the steer’s skull. Three bullet holes were located below the prescribed stunning area.”[2]
  • March 28, 2019: “An establishment employee attempted to stun the bull using a .22 Magnum rifle. The bull remained standing in the knock box, and the employee attempted to stun the bull again using the same .22 Magnum rifle. However, the second stun attempt also failed to render the bull unconscious. The employee then retrieved the backup .308 rifle and attempted to stun the bull (1st attempt with .308 rifle and 3rd overall attempt). Again, the bull remained standing and was showing signs of agitation. The employee fired a 2nd shot with the .308 rifle (4th shot overall) and this attempt rendered the bull unconscious. … [A]ll four bullets … penetrated the skull.”[3]
  • March 8, 2018: “[A]n Angus bull … was loaded into the knock box. An establishment employee attempted to stun the bull using a .22 Magnum rifle. The bull remained calm and standing in the knock box. The establishment did not have a larger caliber rifle available. A second plant employee, who lives nearby, went to her home and returned with a .223 rifle. The first employee attempted to stun the bull using the .223 rifle, and … the shot produced immediate unconsciousness.”[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 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”[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

cc: Scott C. Safian, Director, ELD, OIEA, FSIS

17 U.S.C. § 1902.

2FSIS District 80 Manager Todd Furey, Notice of Suspension, Working H Meats, LLC, Est. M19290 (Sept. 5, 2019) https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/12bd8ede-c1ee-4a60-b1d6-28c396966437/m19290-working-h-meats-nos-090519.pdf?MOD=AJPERES.

3FSIS District 80 Manager Todd Furey, Notice of Suspension, Working H Meats, LLC, Est. M19290 (Mar. 28, 2019) https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/bc9c62ef-845b-4673-af12-35a40c884870/m19290-nos-032819.pdf?MOD=AJPERES.

4FSIS District 80 Manager Steve Lalicker, Notice of Suspension, Working H Meats, LLC, Est. M19290 (Mar. 8, 2018) https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/b53ee155-9943-4cf0-a1a8-dbc1c3aad2fa/M19290-Suspension-030818.pdf?MOD=AJPERES.

521 U.S.C. § 676.

6U.S. Department of Agriculture, FSIS, “Under Secretary for Food Safety Shares Some Insight on the Humane Handling of Livestock,” (Jan. 7, 2011) https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2011/01/7/under-secretary-food-safety-shares-some-insight-humane-handling-livestock (Last accessed on Sept. 23, 2019).

[1]7 U.S.C. § 1902.

[2]FSIS District 80 Manager Todd Furey, Notice of Suspension, Working H Meats, LLC, Est. M19290 (Sept. 5, 2019) https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/12bd8ede-c1ee-4a60-b1d6-28c396966437/m19290-working-h-meats-nos-090519.pdf?MOD=AJPERES.

[3]FSIS District 80 Manager Todd Furey, Notice of Suspension, Working H Meats, LLC, Est. M19290 (Mar. 28, 2019) https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/bc9c62ef-845b-4673-af12-35a40c884870/m19290-nos-032819.pdf?MOD=AJPERES.

[4]FSIS District 80 Manager Steve Lalicker, Notice of Suspension, Working H Meats, LLC, Est. M19290 (Mar. 8, 2018) https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/b53ee155-9943-4cf0-a1a8-dbc1c3aad2fa/M19290-Suspension-030818.pdf?MOD=AJPERES.

[5]21 U.S.C. § 676.

[6]U.S. Department of Agriculture, FSIS, “Under Secretary for Food Safety Shares Some Insight on the Humane Handling of Livestock,” (Jan. 7, 2011) https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2011/01/7/under-secretary-food-safety-shares-some-insight-humane-handling-livestock (Last accessed on Sept. 23, 2019).

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