FSIS said the agency initiated an investigation after receiving five undercover video files of footage taken at the Catelli Brothers slaughter facility. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) said it launched a legal complaint against the company and provided the footage. FSIS said the agency received the video files on Jan. 24. The footage was taken from Sept. 10 to Oct. 31.
In a letter to the company, FSIS said, "It has been noted that your establishment does have a comprehensive or ‘robust’ systematic approach to its humane handling program...but because of the egregious nature of the noncompliance described herein it appears evident that your program was not consistently applied; the assignment of inspectors for slaughter operations at your establishment is being suspended."
HSUS commended the agency's action, and called on the US Department of Agriculture to close what it calls a loophole that allows slaughter of downer veal cattle. Downer adult cattle cannot be slaughtered for human consumption. But under the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, veal calves that appear to be non-ambulatory can be set aside and rested for potential slaughter later.
In a statement posted to the Catelli Brothers website, the company noted its "ethical obligation for the well-being of calves" in the company's care.
"We are deeply concerned about the allegations that have been made regarding the care of calves at our facility," the company said. "Any mistreatment of animals at our facility is unacceptable, and our established practices strictly prohibit the processing of any downed calves.
"Our company is cooperating fully with US Department of Agriculture officials as we investigate the situation. In addition, the very day these concerns were brought to our attention we retained one of the nation’s leading experts on animal care and handling in meat plants and he was on site within 24 hours to help us gather facts and identify necessary changes to ensure that we are providing optimal care and humane treatment of every calf that enters our facility. We are prepared to take the necessary action as the investigation warrants."