WASHINGTON — Undercover video recently taken by the Humane Society of the United States depict a U.S.D.A. employee witnessing what the H.S.U.S. categorizes as improper slaughtering techniques at Bushways Packing Inc. plant in Grand Isle, Vt. Pending a full investigation by the U.S.D.A., state and federal agriculture officials suspended operations at the plant on Oct. 30.
Citing scenes from the video where workers could be seen mishandling veal cattle and excessively using electric prods to move them, the U.S.D.A. issued a statement announcing the plant and the implicated inspector would be investigated.
"The deplorable scenes recorded in the video released by the Humane Society of the United States are unequivocally unacceptable," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement. "The callous behavior and attitudes displayed in the video clearly appear to be violations of U.S.D.A'.s humane handling regulations.
U.S.D.A.'s Food Safety and Inspection Service is investigating the alleged violations of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (H.M.S.A.), he added.
"F.S.I.S. took immediate action with respect to its employee and the establishment upon preliminary verification of the incident," Mr. Vilsack said. "The department fully supports the investigation of all those involved in these alleged violations of the H.M.S.A. To this end, I have also called on our Inspector General to conduct a criminal investigation of the events in the video."
F.S.I.S. has a rigorous program to train inspection personnel in verifying humane handling and slaughter at establishments, he continued. "When an F.S.I.S. employee observes behaviors that are not in compliance with the H.M.S.A., they are obligated to take immediate action. The behavior of F.S.I.S. and establishment personnel witnessed in this video is inexcusable," Vilsack concluded.
"The veal industry has an ethical obligation to provide for the proper treatment and well-being of the animals in our care," said Chip Lines-Burgess, president of the American Veal Association. "The treatment of calves depicted in the videos taken at Bushways Packing Plant in Vermont are unacceptable and not consistent with the standards of the American Veal Association, the Veal Quality Assurance Program or federal law.
"The A.V.A. supports the swift and strong action of the U.S.D.A. and the Vermont Department of Agriculture," he continued. "We do not condone animal abuse and expect that the U.S.D.A. and Vermont Department of Agriculture will determine the appropriate action once they conclude their investigation."