Downer Cattle news from Wayne Pacelle


Good morning gentle banana,

I just read this important news about Downer cattle on Wayne’s blog and wanted to share it with powerful you. Why powerful? Besides the fact that you’re a magical dancin’ spirit, you’re also a consumer. And as a consumer, you have the right to know where your food comes from! BUT, ya have to be willing to look. Painful images can make us shrink away. Don’t. It kills me too but I’d rather know the truth than perpetuate the “Happy-Farms” lie. Make the connection and understand WHERE your food comes from. Bear witness. If I was a tortured being I would want someone to see. Without our eyes their lives are even more of a waste.

The safety of our food depends on these small victories. Thank you Prez. O for being bold and humane. Keep it up!

From Wayne…

“It’s been a long fight, and today, we closed another chapter on it. Since the mid-1990s, The HSUS has been working hard to stop as a matter of public policy the abuse of downer cattle—animals too sick or injured to walk. And today, President Obama himself announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture was officially putting a stop to non-ambulatory cattle being mishandled in order to get them into slaughter plants. He made the announcement along with two top selections for the Food and Drug Administration and a series of other statements about food safety.

We’ve had two major crises that validated The HSUS’s long-standing admonition that the federal government and the cattle industry were reckless and inhumane in allowing sick and crippled cows into the food supply. In December 2003, a downer cow tested positive for mad cow disease in Washington state, and a national and international furor ensued. More than 50 nations in short order closed their markets to U.S. beef, and the federal government tried in vain to recall meat that was linked to the animal with the fatal neurological disease, which is transmissible to people. A recent government report said the economic fall-out of that single finding of a BSE-positive downer cow was $11 billion. So it was not a trifling matter by any means, as a food safety or economic issue.

In the wake of that incident, former Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman—President’s Bush first Agriculture Secretary—announced an immediate ban on the slaughter of downer cattle, in order to quell the concern of consumers and trading partners. But USDA, under her successor Mike Johanns, quietly weakened the rule very soon after it was promulgated, allowing some downer cattle to be slaughtered, if they were ambulatory on first inspection and then went down later. That weakened downer policy was made final in mid-2007, though it had been in effect for several years since Veneman announced the no-downer policy. In short, if cattle went down after passing first inspection by USDA personnel, then they could be approved for slaughter on down the line.

This tremendously damaging loophole provided cover to unscrupulous slaughter plants to keep downer cattle moving into the food system and giving them an incentive to accept downers at slaughter plants in the first place.

And that’s the precise attitude that triggered the second crisis. The HSUS sent one of its investigators into a medium-sized slaughter plant in Chino, Calif., which specialized in the killing of spent dairy cows. At this cull plant, as it was known, our investigator found downer cows—at all stages of the handling and pre-slaughter process—being tormented to get them to stand and then walk toward the kill box. Plant workers—two of them later convicted of animal cruelty charges—were seen on video ramming downer cows with forklifts, applying electric “hot shots” in sensitive body parts like the eyes or genitals, and even using high-pressure water hoses in their mouths, all in order to cause the animals so much distress that they would try to stand and get away from their tormentors. They would torture the cows before the USDA inspectors arrived, in order to show them that the cows were standing.

Like the 2003 BSE case, these findings whipped up a storm of protest and angst. The $110 million-a-year plant voluntarily shut down operations, and then USDA officially closed the plant’s doors. School lunch programs, which got tens of millions of pounds of meat from this cull slaughter plant (it was the second largest supplier to the National School Lunch Program), then started pulling the meat from their shelves in 47 states, and parents across the nation panicked. USDA then initiated the largest meat recall in American history—143 million pounds—and retailers starting pulling meat from the shelves, too. The first of eight Congressional hearings were launched. And there were international effects. There were riots in the streets of South Korea—which is, with Japan, among the two largest American beef importers—with tens of thousands of people protesting the resumption of imports of American beef. They took to the streets after seeing the Chino footage, and riot police were unable to quell the dissent.

Former Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer, who succeeded Johanns and took office the day before we released the Chino footage, initially handled the situation in a decisive way by launching an investigation and urging the recall. But he hedged on making a decision to ban all downer cattle in the food supply. Then, more than three months after the Chino facts came to light—and after several meat industry groups announced they’d support a no-downer policy—he announced USDA would take action. But we waited and waited for final action, with the rule being held up in the bureaucracy of the USDA and perhaps also at the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. The Bush team left Washington eight months after Schafer announced a change in policy would be forthcoming, and the rule was still not instituted.

The Obama team, led by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, did not dither. With Obama’s radio address today, they’ve announced the implementation of a no-downer policy within the first 50 days of taking office. I say it’s about darn time that the federal government took action. No sensible policy like this should have ever taken this long to enact—more than 15 years. And there is a long line of lawmakers and other federal officials and industry actors who share the blame in allowing this economically disastrous policy to have persisted. It was bad for animals, but it was also terrible for industry. It was a penny-wise and pound-foolish policy, and the Hallmark investigation probably cost the industry billions of dollars as well.”

To read the rest of Wayne’s blog go to HSUS. If you can stomach it, see the video report from their investigation into abuse of downed dairy cows.

Peace & kindness,

Kris Carr

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11 responses to Downer Cattle news from Wayne Pacelle
  1. Thanks for sharing Kris. Important news we all need to at least be aware of and make informed decisions knowing the info.


  2. Thank you for sharing this Kris. I actually read an article on the announcement a few days ago and felt such a sense of, way to go Obama, after reading it. I remember seeing the footage of the downer cows when it first came out and at that time I was struggling to go vegetarian. After seeing that footage, going veg wasn’t a problem. I don’t need to see it ever again. The images are forever ingrained into my memory. I have never felt more ashamed or saddened for not knowing where my food actually came from. For anyone willing to find out, it’s not going to be pretty. It’s easier to live with the thought that happy cows come from California. It’s a bunch of crap. Cows feel pain as much as your dog or cat. So why is torturing and eating them acceptible?

  3. Food and Safety NEEDS to be a separate division that is politically neutral FAR AWAY from the USDA. Why the hell is the same agency whose function is to promote the interests of farmers used to regulate what we put in our mouths?! The duality of many government offices meant to “protect out health” are downright scary from the USDA to the depths of the FAA…we’ve been so screwed!

  4. Oh Babe….this hurts my heart and soul. Why must we cause so much suffering – sometimes we actually inflict it and sometimes we simply stand by and allow it. The outcome is the same: suffering and pain. I truly struggle with this concept in so many ways that it easily overwhelms me. More people NEED to be told the truth!

  5. Watch Mike Anderson’s ‘Eating”, all will be revealed. Meat is indeed, murder.. not just of the animals, of us, of the planet.
    Eat VEGAN or watch the world fall apart, quicker than you think.
    thanks for this post
    deb xoxoxo

  6. I echo Becky’s sentiments. This hurts my heart and soul. Well said. And like her, I struggle with the same concepts she states. Thank you, Kris, for continuing to hold up the mirror and illuminating these timely issue — and for everything you do to make the world, and my little piece of it, a better, more whole, and honest place. You, cowgirl, make me think. and act. and for that (among many other things) , you ROCK. Xo, Michelle

  7. If you’re really brave, check out the documentary premiering tonight, on HBO, titled ‘Death on a Factory Farm.” It covers the undercover investigation of horrifying abuse at an Ohio pig farm and the resulting animal cruelty case.

    In an article titled, “How These Piggies Went to Market”, New York Times writer Mike Hale writes..

    “It’s not something you see every day: a large sow hanging by its neck from a forklift, kicking and swinging through the air until it’s dead.

    “That scene, surreptitiously taped at an Ohio hog facility, is the central image in both the HBO documentary ‘Death on a Factory Farm’ and the court case that it chronicles. It doesn’t get any easier to watch as the film goes on, and the prosecutors keep showing it. If it upsets you, then you’ll also be disturbed by the shots of sows left to die in fetid pens and the sound of deformed piglets’ heads being smashed.

    “The fact that these things don’t upset everyone is the crux of the film, an animal-rights tract and legal drama that is primarily a snapshot of the American cultural divide….”

  8. I got into all this health stuff because of vegetarian and then veganism. PETA was instrumental in my transformation and change of lifestyle. I have an arsenal of those kinds of videos and watch them ever so often to remind myself why I live the lifestyle that I do. Raw is all about health, but being vegan for me is SO much more…. Gosh… a part of my heart is bleeding.

    Thanks for sharing Kris..thanks

    Hug your kiddos and pets tight tonite.

  9. It wasn’t until I read Dan Paul’s blog here (http://crazysexylife.com/2008/friend-to-animals-friend-to-me-our-first-canser-chap-dan-paul/) that everything clicked. This led me to watch footage taken undercover by HSUS. Like KC says, once you bear witness, its difficult to ever look back. Education is power! Viva-la-vegan!

  10. Kris,
    Thank you for this post! I get so emotional & outraged over this issue. I hope everyone sees that HBO documentary. Maybe they will air it on regular cable (they show enough sex on regular cable, why not show this). I could go on & on with this topic.

    One thing I want to mention is animal research, for products & pharmaceuticals. I posted in the Life Lounge about the abuse of chimps being used for research (with appropriate petition of course!). The cosmetics you use, the household products, and of course, clothing. Merino wool, leather, etc.
    So, people, think about the cruelty to animals in all of your products. Typically, there is indication of “no animal testing” and a jumping rabbit on cosmetics that are “cruelty free”. Typically, the products tested on animals are bad for your health & the environment as well. Educate yourself. With knowledge comes power.
    Rock on Kris!

  11. I DVRd it…and oh dear, Im trying to be brave enough to watch…for all the reasons I should. And yet…just reading the NY Times exerpt made me livid and heartbroken…but I feel its almost a duty to watch it. Did you see it last night? And if so…were you able to sit through it all?