The sad sad story of downer cows and the USDA

February 4, 2008 | By | 10 Replies More

I learned of the issue of “downer cows” by reading a report on Common Dreams:

You wouldn’t think you could “spin” a video that shows slaughterhouse workers electric shocking downer cows, “water boarding” them, jabbing their eyes with herding paddles and ramming them with forklift blades while they squeal in pain, posted at, but USDA is trying.

Bad enough the slaughterhouse, Hallmark Meat Packing Co. in Chino, CA, supplies the National School Lunch Program, a certain portion of children have already eaten the meat.

This disturbing report caused me to visit the Human Society site, where I made myself watch the video.  What assurance can I ever have that the next hamburger I might eat is not from an animal treated like this?


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Category: Food

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (10)

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  1. Kevin Morgan says:

    You could become a vegetarian. I've been one for 2 years now and it's not so bad.

  2. Roov says:

    This is why I've seriously curtailed my meat-eating lately. I'm OK with the fact that an animal might die to feed me, but I can't really justify to myself that it spent its life in agony and was basically tortured first. My enjoyment of that meat–which I do enjoy–is not great enough for me to feel OK about it.

    I decided I'll only buy from humane farms (to the extent that I can tell that they are humane, and I know I have to take their word for it), but that meat costs so much that it's only a rare thing for me these days. So be it.

  3. Erich Vieth says:

    Kevin and Roov: I too have cut way back on eating meat, especially red meat. I'm filling in with beans, nuts and whole grains. I've also become a big fan of vegie burgers and vegie ribs (some friend of mine call them "fib ribs) that you can buy at the supermarket. I think of meat mostly as a condiment now. I must confess, though, that I do enjoy a hamburger once or twice a month.

    Will I entirely cut out meat from my diet? I haven't decided yet, but information like this video from the Humane Society is really making me thing about it. And this is only one reason to cut down on meat–the hormones, antibiotics and environmental damage of producing meat are other compelling reasons.

  4. Alison says:

    I've been vegetarian for about 7 years now, and it's really not bad as long as you have a taste for a wide variety of ethnic cuisines (and the time to cook them!) This is the very kind of animal treatment that makes me drive a distance and pay the extra for certified humane meat and dairy products. Does a label guarantee the animals haven't been tortured? I'm too jaded to believe that absolutely, but I'd rather take the chance that it's true than most certainly subsidizing the inhumane meat and dairy industries that sell their products in the supermarkets.

  5. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    THe HSUS is an animals rights activist organization that in the past has advocated violence and terroristic actions against the meat industry. It is in no way affiliated with the American Humane Society,

    Like many other profitable nonprofit organizations, HSUS is top-heavy with management, and acts primarily as a lobbying organization for grouls such as PETA(People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and the ALF (Animal Liberation Front) They flood the internet with their own self glorifying press releases, to get more donations away from organizations like the American Humane Society.

    The HSUS is not above the use of carefully prepared and heavily edited videos that spin things to their own agenda. They will take a one really bad facility and make it sound like it is representative ot the whole industry.

    Here are a few facts that totally ignored by the HSUS.

    Humans are omnivores as are most apes. Certain amino acidss necessary for proper nerve function cannot be produced in the human body, and are not availabe from plant sources. There are also many other nutrients that humans cannot get sufficient amounts from a vegetarian diet. Many of these nutrients may be replaced by supplements which are manufactured from animal sources.

    the HSUS if very active against sport hunting. In the US and many other countries, wildlife heard size is managed through the use of limits and quotas. The limits and quotas are the result of the work of hundreds of biologists that study the different wild life populations, and the ability of the land to provide enough food for the wildlife. when under nourished, animals will be less healthy, and will also move into inhabited areas, resulting in human-animal confrontations and often injury to the people.

    The Wildlife management agencies also regulate and inspect animals and facilities belonging to circuses and zoos, and enforce many laws and regulations to make certain that the facilities and conditions are safe for both the animals and the people.

  6. Erich Vieth says:

    Niklaus: Thanks for the clarification. I didn't realize the distinction between the HSUS and the American Humane Society.

    Not that this makes the video any less disturbing, but it does make me wonder whether it was a representative day at the slaughterhouse versus a heavily-edited political piece.

  7. Niklaus Pfirsig, I think you are quite wrong in claiming "Certain amino acids necessary for proper nerve function cannot be produced in the human body, and are not available from plant sources.". I would seriously have to be convinced of that and considering I've been vegan for over 30 years as have my children and considering I have studied somewhat the nutrition behind it, i clearly think it is a misrepresentation of the truth.

    I am also not sure hunting is a good way to reduce "herd size", sure it works but by that logic people are seriously overpopulated and do you honestly think a hunting session on them is a good idea. Note this is an ethical question and not one of science. there is a difference.

    Anyway Eric seriously consider vegetarianism, flesh eating these days is good for no one, not you not the planet and certainly not the animals tortured to satisfy a decadent lifestyle. You're clearly smart and compassionate think about it.

  8. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    Starhawk, I can't change what you wish to believe concerning diet and nutrition. For the past 12 years, I have put serious effort into understanding the biochemistry of nutrition. This has been a sideline for me, but with a reason. I have an autistic son, who suffers from malabsorption syndrome as a result of the hyperseratonemia caused by the autism.

    As for hunting. yes it is the best and most effective method the control and guarantee the health of wildlife populations. The overpopulation of various wildlife species, has come about due largely as the result of a decrease in the population of natural predators. The predators numbers have reduced due to the encroachment of the human population on the habitat of the predators. At the same time this encroachment has provided the predators with easier sources of food. It is much easier to raid a garbage can than it is to chase down a deer.

    I do not seek to change your lifestyle. Please don't seek to change mine.

    If the HSUS and its affiliated organizations succeed in outlawing the eating of meat, high tech farming, the use of bio engineered products and all the technology that is currently used to produce enough food for our population, we will see a civil war in the spirit of the one in Darfur.

  9. Niklaus, sorry about your son. I've actually heard of that condition before. As to changing my mind as to what i think about diet I'm a rational person and I have changed my mind about other issues before. I do think a vegan diet is perfectly sufficient for me and my family and for most people.

    And i also agree with ya as to the cause of animal overpopulation, just not hunting them as a way to deal with it. A hunting season on hunters I would support tho. Overpopulation of humans is the problem that needs to be addressed and honestly for far more reasons than the fact deer overpopulate as wolves and wild cats are driven away. I ask again should the same logic apply to humans, should humans be randomly killed to reduce our population in high population areas? I myself have no obvious answers to the problems of the world this issue or many others. In fact I'm pretty sure there are no easy answers.

    And btw I never said I seek to change your lifestyle, I honestly don't even know what your lifestyle is. Nor did i say i support HSUS and its affiliated organizations tho in many ways I probably do.

  10. Erich Vieth says:

    The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Sunday ordered the recall of 143 million pounds of frozen beef from a California slaughterhouse, the subject of an animal-abuse investigation, that provided meat to school lunch programs.

    The recall will affect beef products dating to Feb. 1, 2006, that came from Chino-based Westland/Hallmark Meat Co., the federal agency said.

    Federal officials suspended operations at Westland/Hallmark after an undercover video from the Humane Society of the United States surfaced showing crippled and sick animals being shoved with forklifts.

    This report is from the Associated Press.

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