Steer, Pig Repeatedly Shot in the Head; PETA Seeks Criminal Probe

For Immediate Release:
January 11, 2021

David Perle 202-483-7382

Taneytown, Md.

PETA has obtained a U.S. Department of Agriculture report revealing recent violations of law at A&W Country Meats, Inc., in Taneytown. In response, the group sent a letter today calling on Carroll County State’s Attorney Brian DeLeonardo to review the matter and, as appropriate, file criminal cruelty-to-animals charges against the slaughterhouse and the worker(s) responsible for shooting a steer in the head five times with a captive-bolt gun while the injured animal remained conscious, cried out, and attempted to stand, before a sixth shot finally stunned him. That same day, a pig also remained standing and crying out after being shot in the head.

“This disturbing report shows that a steer and a pig experienced prolonged, agonizing deaths at A&W Country Meats,” says PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch. “PETA is calling for a criminal investigation on behalf of these animals 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, pigs, sheep, 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.

For more information, visit or follow the group on TwitterFacebook, or Instagram.

PETA’s letter to Carroll County State’s Attorney Brian DeLeonardo follows.

January 11, 2021

The Honorable Brian DeLeonardo

Carroll County State’s Attorney

Dear Mr. DeLeonardo:

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 A&W Country Meats, Inc., and the worker(s) responsible for shooting a steer and a pig multiple times in the head, causing the severely injured animals to cry out, on December 16 at its slaughterhouse located at 12 Middle St. in Taneytown. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) documented the incidents in the attached report, which states the following:

“An employee attempted to stun the steer using a .25 caliber hand-held captive bolt stunning device (HHCB). IPP [Inspection Program Personnel] was waiting on the kill floor, around a corner from the knock box, and after the first stun attempt, IPP … heard a second firing of the HHCB. IPP rounded the corner and observed that the steer had gone down in the knock box, but was in sternal recumbency, was rhythmically breathing, was twitching its ears, and it was moving its head from side to side observing its surroundings. The employee reloaded the HHCB two more times and attempted a third and fourth stun, which IPP observed to have almost no effect on the steer. … The employee reset the plunger on the HHCB and attempted a fifth stun. Following this attempt, the steer remained conscious, vocalized, and attempted to stand in the knock box. The employee then reloaded the HHCB and fired a sixth time, successfully rendering the steer unconscious. …

[T]hat same morning … IPP observed a second humane handling stunning incident. An employee attempted to stun a hog using a 9mm HHCB. Following the first stunning attempt, the hog remained standing and vocalized in the knock box. The employee immediately reloaded the HHCB and delivered an effective corrective action, rendering the pig unconscious.”1

This conduct appears to violate MD Code, Criminal Law § 10-604. Importantly, FSIS action does not 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

Assistant Manager of Investigations

1FSIS District 80 Manager Todd Furey, Notice of Suspension, A&W Country Meats, Inc. (Dec. 16, 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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