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Monday, February 04, 2008

Wave of Outrage Continues in Wake of Downer Scandal

The dairy cow slaughter plant scandal grows. More than 150 school districts across the country have stopped serving beef from the Westland slaughter plant , in response to an HSUS investigation. Local television stations in cities from Austin to Bend to Billings to Sacramento to Tucson covered the cafeteria controversy. The Riverside Press-Enterprise published an important story over the weekend on the timeline of the investigation and potential enforcement actions by the San Bernardino County district attorney’s office and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Congressional reaction, too, continued to escalate. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), a member of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, said she was “appalled” by the revelations and called on the USDA “to address both the animal cruelty acts related to this incident and the food safety threats posed by the actions of the employees at the Westland’s facility.” She asked the agency “to conduct an industry-wide investigation to assess the Department’s inspection protocol for its efficacy to keep sick animals at these federally inspected facilities out of the food supply, and an industry-wide investigation to determine the extent to which animals are being treated inhumanely.”

Cow_downed3 Rep. Leonard Boswell (D-Iowa), Chairman of the Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Subcommittee, called on the USDA to conduct a thorough review and take swift action.  “As someone who has been involved in animal agriculture for most of my life, I urge you to do a thorough investigation on the mistreatment of these non-ambulatory cattle at the Westland Meat Company,” Boswell said. “I would also like assurances that USDA is using all available resources to close this investigation in a timely manner.”

And the authors of legislation to set animal welfare standards for government purchases of meat, dairy, and egg products—Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Chris Shays (R-Conn.)—renewed their call for passage of the Farm Animal Stewardship Purchasing Act.  Their bill would reform the meat purchases for the national school lunch program and other federal nutrition programs.

“Frankly, I am stunned that beef from downed animals may have been served in school lunches,” DeFazio said. “Most cases of mad cow disease have come from downed cattle, these animals are far more likely to be contaminated with e coli, and now we’re feeding this stuff to kids? It is past time that Congress act to protect the food supply by passing legislation introduced by Rep. Shays and myself which would have prevented this from happening. We will push for passage to ensure that our children aren’t put at this risk again.”

“The humane treatment of animals speaks to our nation’s core values, and this cruelty reflects poorly on our country as a whole,” Shays said. “Our government can have a tremendous impact in encouraging improved treatment of animals by requiring producers to meet basic federal animal welfare requirements. I look forward to working with Rep. DeFazio to ensure passage of the Farm Animal Stewardship Purchasing Act.

We look forward to working with Congressional leaders to make sure we have public policies in place to prevent this abuse from happening again. Our nation’s children and animals deserve better.

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