For Immediate Release:
June 22, 2022
David Perle 202-483-7382
St. Johnsbury, Vt. – PETA has obtained U.S. Department of Agriculture reports revealing recent violations of law at Northeast Kingdom Processing in St. Johnsbury, in which a pig cried out as she was repeatedly shot in the head, another remained conscious and moving as he was repeatedly electrocuted, and a “frustrated and angry” worker twice slammed a gate into a steer with “a great deal of force,” pinning the animal against a wall. In response, the group sent a letter this morning to Caledonia County State’s Attorney Jessica Zaleski calling on her to review the matter and, as appropriate, file criminal cruelty-to-animals charges against the facility and the workers responsible for this abuse.
“These disturbing reports show that pigs experienced prolonged, agonizing deaths and a steer endured vicious violence at Northeast Kingdom Processing,” says PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch. “PETA is calling for a criminal investigation on behalf of these animals 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” and which opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview—points out that pigs, cows, sheep, chickens, and other animals feel pain and fear and value their lives, just as humans do. The group is pursuing charges under state law because federal officials haven’t prosecuted any inspected slaughterhouses for acts of abuse such as those at Northeast Kingdom Processing since at least 2007.
For more information on PETA’s investigative newsgathering and reporting, visit PETA.org or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.
PETA’s letter to Zaleski follows.
June 22, 2022
The Honorable Jessica Zaleski
Caledonia County State’s Attorney
Dear Ms. Zaleski:
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 Northeast Kingdom Processing and the workers responsible for repeatedly shooting and electrocuting conscious animals as well as repeatedly slamming another with a gate at its slaughterhouse located at 796 Industrial Pkwy. in St. Johnsbury. 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 6, 2022: “The employee … attempted to stun the sow using a hand-held, charge-driven penetrating captive bolt device. The sow vocalized after the initial stunning attempt. The plant employee then utilized the back-up hand-held, charge-driven penetrating captive bolt device to attempt to stun the animal. The sow again vocalized, so the employee used the electrical stunner to effectively stun the animal.”1
- March 21, 2022: “The CSI [FSIS consumer safety inspector] heard a hog vocalize and turned around to observe an establishment employee removing the stunning wand from a hog’s neck. The CSI then heard the employee shout and watched as he placed the stunning wand behind the hog’s ears, again. Once again, the hog began to vocalize. At this point the employee … administered voltage through the wand to the hog’s chest. Immediately after, the hog vocalized again, and [his or her] head was moving. … The employee moved to chain the legs to hoist the animal up for the bleeding stick, but the CSI stopped him and informed him … that the hog was not completely stunned. At this point establishment personnel performing the stunning held the wand at the heart much longer, whereby there was brief vocalization, and then [the] animal performed the rhythmic death throes consistent with a stunned hog.”2
- December 28, 2021: “[A steer] would not move, and [REDACTED] became very frustrated and angry. [A federal inspector] observed him darting at the forcing gate twice in quick succession with a great deal of force. The steer was on the other side of this solid metal gate when [REDACTED] rammed into it, [and the animal] was pinned between the gate and the concrete wall. The event happened with a great deal of aggression, and very quickly. [REDACTED] ordered [REDACTED] out of the barn, and [REDACTED] threw his helmet against the concrete wall and left. The steer remained immobile in the corner of the forcing pen.”3
This conduct appears to violate 13 V.S.A. § 352. Importantly, FSIS’ action carries no criminal or civil penalties and does not preempt criminal liability under state law for slaughterhouse workers who perpetrate acts of cruelty to animals.4 Given that the FSIS has not initiated a criminal prosecution of a licensed slaughterhouse for inhumane handling since at least 2007, charges under state law are these victims’ only chance at a measure of justice.
Please let us know what we might do to assist you. Thank you for your consideration and for the difficult work that you do.
Assistant Manager of Investigations
1FSIS District 60 Manager Valerie Clay, Notice of Suspension, Northeast Kingdom Processing, LLC (June 6, 2022) https://www.fsis.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media_file/2022-06/46706-ROS-06062022.pdf.
2FSIS District 60 Manager Valerie Clay, Notice of Suspension, Northeast Kingdom Processing, LLC (March 21, 2022) https://www.fsis.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media_file/2022-03/46706-NOS-03212022.pdf.
3FSIS, Noncompliance Record, Northeast Kingdom Processing, LLC (December 28, 2021) https://www.peta.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/northeast-kingdom-processing-llc-noncompliance-record.pdf.
4See 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.”).