Three California Republicans representing the agricultural Central Valley have asked Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to reopen a meat-packing plant that was shut down after “extremists” posted video purporting to show plant workers mistreating livestock.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture suspended operations at the Central Valley Meat Company in Hanford, Calif., after the undercover video shot by an investigator for Compassion Over Killing was handed over to the agency Friday. Within hours of receiving the video, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service dispatched several teams of investigators to the plant.
“Based on the videotape, in at least four instances, plant employees are observed excessively prodding cattle with an electric device, pulling their tails, or forcibly attempting to make cattle rise from a recumbent position,” the USDA said in a statement. “All actions are considered egregious humane handling violations or in regulatory noncompliance.”
Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Reps. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) said that the alleged violations did not compromise the food supply and maintained that idling hundreds of workers is resulting in unnecessary economic damage to the area with double-digit unemployment.
“The video was posted by extremists who are actively working to undermine production agriculture in the United States,” Nunes said. “In recent years, these kinds of ‘activists’ have increased their attacks on animal agriculture, and have even carried out acts of domestic terrorism. For example, in early 2012 a group used improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to blow up fourteen trucks used for transporting livestock not far from Hanford, citing animal welfare as their excuse. Now, area residents are confronted with economic terrorism.”
The lawmakers told Vilsack that the investigation “can and should continue” without a “disastrous” work stoppage, and the plant should be allowed to resume activities under supervision as the probe goes on.
They argued that the shutdown has already depressed beef prices in the region, placing further economic hardship on farmers.
“It is also important to note that USDA had a number of full-time inspectors on duty during the period in which the alleged violations occurred,” they wrote. “Despite their active presence throughout the facility at the time, there is no record of non-compliance. … Please show your compassion for the hard-working men and women who are now unemployed as a result of this allegation and your agency’s actions and restore operation of the Hanford plant immediately.”
In-N-Out Burger, Costco and McDonald’s have severed supply ties with the meat plant in the wake of the investigation.