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USDA investigates animal cruelty charges

Jan. 31, 2008 at 8:54 AM

WASHINGTON, Jan. 31 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced an investigation into charges of inhumane treatment of disabled cattle at a California slaughterhouse.

The Humane Society of the United States said it had videotaped workers at the Westland Meat Co. slaughterhouse in Chino, Calif., kicking sick or injured cows, ramming them with the blades of a forklift, and even jabbing them in their eyes in attempts to force the animals to walk to slaughter.

"I am deeply concerned about the allegations made regarding inhumane handling of non-ambulatory disabled cattle in a federally inspected slaughter establishment," said Agriculture Department Secretary Ed Schafer. He said the Westland Meat Co.'s federal contract had been indefinitely suspended pending completion of the investigation.

"This torture is right out of the waterboarding manual," said society President Wayne Pacelle. "Our government simply must act quickly both to guarantee the most basic level of humane treatment for farm animals and to protect America's most vulnerable people, our children, needy families and the elderly from potentially dangerous food."

The company issued a statement saying it was "shocked, saddened and sickened" by the videotape. The company said it had fired the two employees involved and suspended their supervisor.

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