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PETA Blasts USDA’s Toothless Response to Local Slaughterhouse Cruelty


For Immediate Release:
January 30, 2023

Contact:
David Perle 202-483-7382

Johnstown, Pa. – Today PETA fired off a letter to Paul Kiecker, administrator of the Food Safety and Inspection Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), condemning the agency’s failure to refer abuse documented at Pudliner Packing outside Johnstown for criminal prosecution and asking that it do so immediately. The letter comes on the heels of newly released records revealing a cow’s injury at the local slaughterhouse after her leg got caught between a truck and a loading dock, causing her to fall “completely down” onto her stomach and limp once she got back up.

This slaughterhouse has been found to have violated federal law at least 13 times since June 2019. The August 2022 injury is the latest in a string of animal welfare violations. Previous incidents include repeatedly shooting a pig and several cows in the head up to four times, cutting the throat of one cow while she was conscious and crying out, confining animals without water on multiple occasions, and causing animals to fall on hazardous surfaces.

“The USDA’s toothless response to these repeated violations emboldens slaughterhouses like Pudliner to continue abusing and neglecting animals,” says PETA Vice President Daniel Paden. “PETA is calling on the USDA to enforce the law and refer all intentional cruelty and egregious abuse for criminal prosecution.”

The group explains that in the 44 years that violations of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act have been subject to criminal sanctions under the Federal Meat Inspection Act, there is no evidence of a single instance in which the USDA worked with the Department of Justice to file criminal charges against a licensed slaughterhouse.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to eat”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information on PETA’s investigative newsgathering and reporting, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

PETA’s letter to Kiecker follows.

January 26, 2023

Paul Kiecker

Administrator

Food Safety and Inspection Service

U.S. Department of Agriculture

Dear Mr. Kiecker:

I hope this letter finds you well. I’m writing to you to follow up on the petition for rulemaking that PETA and others submitted to the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to, among other things, amend agency regulations requiring that all intentional cruelty and egregious or reckless abuse be referred for criminal prosecution in light of FSIS’ apparent failure to ever exercise its discretion to do so.

Specifically, the petition notes that FSIS has effectively eliminated criminal sanctions for licensed establishments by apparently never referring abuse for prosecution. Since submission of the petition, FSIS’ abdication of duty has continued to result in substantial animal suffering. This is demonstrated clearly by Pudliner Packing, in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, which FSIS has cited for at least 13 violations of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA) since June 26, 2019. Given the remarkable history of persistent, egregious violations of law at Pudliner Packing—and the extensive pain and suffering they have caused—we urge FSIS to refer this matter for federal criminal charges immediately.

Your personnel have documented the following incidents in the attached reports.

  • August 17, 2022: “A red and white Bovine was coming off the truck, and as the bovine stepped off the trailer onto the loading dock, her back foot got stuck in the gap between the trailer and loading dock, and the bovine fell completely down onto her ventrum, with her leg down through the gap. The plant employee immediately informed the truck driver to move the truck forward so she could be released. As she was released, she immediately stood up on her own and was limping as she walked into the pen. When she was standing still, she favored the right hind limb by bearing little to no weight on it.”1
  • November 24, 2021: “A dairy cow was observed in holding pen two. The two water barrels outside of pen two were frozen on top allowing no access to water.”2
  • November 23, 2021: “At 0708 hours a pig was observed in the runway/unloading ramp area with no water available at the time of observation. Also in the inside pen area a swine and two sheep were being held with no access to water. Containers were available in the pens … but water was not available at the time of observation.”3
  • November 22, 2021: “A swine was observed in pen number one. No water was available at the time of observation. A container was in the pen … but was empty.”4
  • November 19, 2021: “At 0705 hours a pig was observed in pen number one with no water available at the time of observation. Also in the adjacent unloading area a swine was being held with no access to water. Containers were available in the pens but … water was not at the time of observation. Establishment employees were notified and water was put into the containers at approximately 0825. At 1025 hours it was observed that the swine in pen number one did not have access to water. The container was in the pen but … had been turned over.”5
  • November 9, 2021: “In the barn area cattle were being unloaded from a truck. The cattle walked down the ramp and as they tried to slow at the bottom the cattle slipped and fell with their bodies coming into contact with the floor of the pen.”6
  • November 3, 2021: “In the barn area cattle were being unloaded from a truck. The cattle crossed over pen one into pen two. In pen two, two of the cattle slipped and fell with their bodies coming into contact with the floor of the pen. … Upon examination of pen two no anti-slip type product had been added.”7
  • July 15, 2021: “A cow with the ear tag number 7 was located in a small holding pen in the barn near the ramp with no access to water.”8
  • June 11, 2021: “The plant employee moved a boar swine in the knock box for stunning. The primary stunning operator fired using the 0.410 firearm and hit the swine in between the eyes, but the boar swine remained standing. … The primary stunner waited for the animal to stop moving [his] head then made the second shot with the 20-gauge. The boar dropped and was shackled and hoisted for sticking/bleeding. Examination of the skull revealed 2 holes in the forehead of the animal. This observation confirmed that the first stunning attempt did not effectively render immediate unconsciousness.”9
  • November 16, 2020: “Establishment personnel were stunning a dairy cow in the stunning area with a .410 shotgun. After the first shot, the Consumer Safety Inspector (CSI) observed the animal [was] conscious, as [she] was still standing. After the second stunning attempt with the .410 shotgun, the CSI observed the animal still standing, alert and looking around. Establishment personnel then effectively stunned the animal with a 20-gauge shotgun. Upon examination, there were three distinct holes in the head.”10
  • August 11, 2020: “Establishment personnel were stunning a beef cow … with a .22 magnum rifle. After two shots, the Food Inspector (FI) observed the animal in a state of consciousness as [she] was still standing. After the next shot attempt, the [CSI] observed the animal in sternal recumbency, alert and looking around. The plant then effectively stunned the animal with the fourth shot. After the bovine was skinned out, only one large hole was observed in the cranium.”11
  • January 27, 2020: “Establishment personnel stunned a Holstein dairy cow in the stunning area with a firearm, then proceeded to winch [her] into the area to be shackled and hoisted. While the bovine was hanging on the rail, the CSI was able to determine that the animal was not insensible as [she] was vocalizing loudly and looking around. The establishment employee ignored the vocalization and continued to hang the bovine, then made the bleeding cut on a conscious animal. Shortly after the bleeding cut, the animal lost sensibility. After the bovine was skinned out, three holes were observed in the cranium.”12
  • June 26, 2019: “The [federal inspector] … was listening to the firearm stunning of a cow …. He heard the first gunshot but did not hear the animal fall. He heard a second gunshot and then heard the cow bellowing from the alley. He heard a third stunning attempt with the hand held captive bolt and heard the cow fall. The employees brought the animal into the slaughter floor and removed the head. Three holes were observed in the skull.”13

FSIS claims that “[i]nvestigators from [its] enforcement division and from USDA’s Inspector General … stand ready to work”14 with U.S. attorneys to prosecute violations of the HMSA. However, we are unaware of even one instance in which FSIS collaborated with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to file criminal charges against a licensed slaughterhouse in the 44 years that violations of the HMSA have been subject to criminal sanctions under the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA). The FMIA classifies such offenses as misdemeanors and provides penalties of imprisonment of up to one year and/or a fine of up to $1,000.15

The fact that inhumane handling has persisted at Pudliner Packing for so long under your agency’s watch makes it abundantly clear that FSIS’ 13 enforcement and other actions are woefully ineffective. Absent the long-overdue referral of this and many other matters for criminal prosecution, Pudliner Packing—and the rest of the nation’s licensed slaughterhouses—is emboldened by FSIS’ toothless responses and continues to violate the HMSA, with no fear of penalties or significant consequences.

Criminal prosecution is in the best interests of the animals slaughtered at Pudliner Packing as well as the American public. Accordingly, we ask that FSIS forward all its enforcement actions, noncompliance records, and memorandums of interview related to this establishment to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of the General Counsel or Office of Inspector General for referral to U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania Cindy K. Chung. It’s time for the DOJ to bring criminal charges against all those responsible for this astounding history of violations—and for FSIS to exercise its authority by finally and regularly holding those who abuse and neglect animals in violation of federal law accountable in a meaningful and effective way. We also urge you to take action immediately to implement the revisions to agency regulations proposed by the 2015 petition to ensure that existing laws and policies are actually enforced.

Thank you for your consideration of this important matter.

Sincerely,

Colin Henstock

Investigations Project Manager

1Food Safety and Inspection Service, Noncompliance Record, Pudliner Packing (Aug. 17, 2022) https://www.peta.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/pudliner-packing-noncompliance-records.pdf. Last accessed January 24, 2023.

2Food Safety and Inspection Service, Noncompliance Record, Pudliner Packing (Nov. 24, 2021) https://www.peta.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/pudliner-packing-noncompliance-records.pdf. Last accessed January 24, 2023.

3Food Safety and Inspection Service, Noncompliance Record, Pudliner Packing (Nov. 23, 2021) https://www.peta.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/pudliner-packing-noncompliance-records.pdf. Last accessed January 24, 2023.

4Food Safety and Inspection Service, Noncompliance Record, Pudliner Packing (Nov. 22, 2021) https://www.peta.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/pudliner-packing-noncompliance-records.pdf. Last accessed January 24, 2023.

5Food Safety and Inspection Service, Noncompliance Record, Pudliner Packing (Nov. 19, 2021) https://www.peta.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/pudliner-packing-noncompliance-records.pdf. Last accessed January 24, 2023.

6Food Safety and Inspection Service, Noncompliance Record, Pudliner Packing (Nov. 9, 2021) https://www.peta.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/pudliner-packing-noncompliance-records.pdf. Last accessed January 24, 2023.

7Food Safety and Inspection Service, Noncompliance Record, Pudliner Packing (Nov. 3, 2021) https://www.peta.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/pudliner-packing-noncompliance-records.pdf. Last accessed January 24, 2023.

8Food Safety and Inspection Service, Noncompliance Record, Pudliner Packing (July 15, 2021) https://www.peta.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/pudliner-packing-noncompliance-records.pdf. Last accessed January 24, 2023.

9Food Safety and Inspection Service, Noncompliance Record, Pudliner Packing (June 11, 2021) https://www.peta.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/pudliner-packing-noncompliance-records.pdf. Last accessed January 24, 2023.

10FSIS District 60 Manager Dr. Lynda Lilyestrom, Reinstatement of Suspension, Pudliner Packing (Nov. 16, 2020) https://www.peta.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/4999-noros-11162020.pdf. Last accessed January 24, 2023.

11FSIS District 60 Manager Dr. Lynda Lilyestrom, Notice of Suspension, Pudliner Packing (Aug. 11, 2020) https://www.peta.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/4999-nos-08112020.pdf. Last accessed January 24, 2023.

12FSIS District 60 Manager Dr. Lynda Lilyestrom, Reinstatement of Suspension, Pudliner Packing (Jan. 27, 2020) https://www.peta.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/4999-ros-012720.pdf. Last accessed January 24, 2023.

13FSIS District 60 Manager Dr. Lynda Lilyestrom, Reinstatement of Suspension, Pudliner Packing (June 26, 2019) https://www.peta.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/01/4999-noros-062619.pdf. Last accessed January 24, 2023.

14U.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 January 24, 2023.

15U.S. Congress, United States Code: Meat Inspection, 21 U.S.C. §§ 676(a), (1982) https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/USCODE-2010-title21/pdf/USCODE-2010-title21-chap12-subchapIV-sec676.pdf. Last accessed January 24, 2023.





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