USDA miffed at Humane Society over cattle video

By Reuters Staff
February 22, 2008

    Relations between the U.S. Agriculture Department and the Humane Society of the United States are a little strained right now.
    In January, the Humane Society released the shocking videos of workers at a California meat plant workers using all manner of abusive tactics to get unfit cattle into the slaughterhouse.
    This week at the USDA’s annual outlook conference, Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer complained that that the animal rights group held on to the video for four months before making it public.  Could this be sour grapes that the USDA itself did not expose the grusome conditions at the plant?
    “They had a big, huge impact on this issue because they were not forthcoming with the information,” said Schafer, who was concerned about the department’s relationship with the animal-rights group.
    “I’m looking forward to visiting with them because we should be partners in our common mission of the humane treatment of animals.”
    Schafer said that by holding on to the video, the Humane Society of the United States failed to prevent four months of meat production from entering the marketplace that was later recalled. It’s failure to release the video also was surprising for a body that claims to promote the safe treatment of animals, he said.
    Humane Society President Wayne Pacelle fired back that it took time to conduct the investigation, analyze the information, check laws and work with authorities conducting a criminal investigation.
   “They are attempting to divert attention from their own shortcomings,” said Pacelle. “He keeps misrepresenting the timeline on this.”
    The shocking undercover video (beware!)  showed Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co workers using a variety of abusive techniques to force sick and injured cattle into the slaughterhouse so they could be processed into food for human consumption. 
   This week, Hallmark/Westland announced it was recalling 143 million lbs of meat, mostly beef, from the plant where the abuse occurred.  It was by far the largest meat recall ever and some of the meat  from the plant ended up in school lunch programs, which the USDA oversees. 

 – Christopher Doering, Washington  

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