The USDA announced Tuesday that it had suspended a California meat processing center for humane handling violations in response to alleged animal torture as filmed in an undercover video.
Animal rights group Compassion Over Killing shot the video, which allegedly showed dairy cows at the California plant being shot, suffocated and/or shocked. The group then submitted the footage to the USDA.
According to a statement from COK, the footage was shot by a COK investigator who worked at the plant in June and July 2012.
Though operations at the plant, Central Valley Meat in Hanford, Calif., have been suspended, the USDA said in a release Tuesday that they have not yet seen a food safety violation.
Such a violation would include "downer" cattle (according to USDA Food Safety and Inspection service, a cow that is unable to walk or stand) entering the food supply.
"Our top priority is to ensure the safety of the food Americans feed their families," said Al Almanza, administrator of the Food Safety and Inspection Service. "We have reviewed the video and determined that, while some of the footage provided shows unacceptable treatment of cattle, it does not show anything that would compromise food safety. Therefore, we have not substantiated a food safety violation at this time. We are aggressively continuing to investigate the allegations."
The National Cattlemen's Beef Association representative Dave Daley, associate dean for the College of Agriculture at California State University, said the actions allegedly depicted in the video are disgraceful and not representative of the cattle community.
"The vast majority of cattlemen stand firm in adhering to the absolute best animal care and handling guidelines established by veterinarians and other experts. We do not condone any mishandling of livestock on the farm or ranch or in the packing facility," Daley said.
Daley said USDA inspectors have a responsibility to ensure packers follow guidelines and animals receive proper handling. He added that abuse should be taken seriously.
"We believe any individual who witnesses inappropriate animal treatment is responsible for making every effort to stop it immediately. Anyone who mistreats animals must be reported immediately and should be punished in accordance with the law. We must work together to put a stop to any abuse."