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HORTON HEARS A COW!
ALL   RESEARCH   FOOD   COMPANION   ENTERTAINMENT   FASHION   WILD   DISASTERS   TOOLS   POEMS
By Brenda Shoss, Kinship Circle
If we can't feel or see this make-believe stuff, then nothing is wrong, Ms. Kangaroo huffs.

But Horton was certain, despite his great girth, he'd heard tiny cries from a teeny tiny earth.

Little Whos of Whoville united their call, as proof they were here, no matter how small.

Their world on a dust speck was clearly in tatters, till Horton proclaimed:
Every voice matters!


In Theodor Geisel's (Dr. Seuss) fabled tale, Horton hears pleas from a dust speck lodged in a clover. Horton Hears A Who, Hollywood-style, paints a universe strangely like our own. Jungle folks don't trust the goofy pachyderm. Kangaroo warns: You cannot believe in something you can't see or touch.
► DOWNER ABUSE

► US CITIZENS —
ASK CONGRESS & USDA:

  1. To pass a LAW that bans transport, marketing, slaughter of downed cows, pigs, sheep, goats… and all "livestock."

  2. Forbid use of downer animals in "pet" and "livestock" foods.

  3. Enforce ban on chains, forklifts, trucks, shock prods…to move animals.

  4. Mandate training to prevent animals from becoming downers in the first place.

Type 9-digit zip code, i.e., 63130-4142

From search results, use contacts listed under: CONGRESSIONAL


Go to VoteSmart.org if LEGISLATOR LOOK-UP won't work in your browser.
Or try: Senate.gov and House.gov




Horton defies the code of the jungle when he speaks for unheard creatures. This reminded me of animals in society. Specifically, my mind drifted to cows. As a rule, we don't hear much about cows…other than "Happy Cows make tons of delicious dairy products!" (California Milk Advisory Board)

In a Horton-esque twist, cows became news with a video released by Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) in February 2008. Footage, shot over six weeks in 2007, shows how Westland/Hallmark Meat Company brutalized sick cows from industrialized dairies. After HSUS gave their video to the San Bernardino County District Attorney's Office, two workers at the Chino, Calif. based plant were booked on likely the nation's first felony animal abuse charges at a slaughterhouse.

U.S. Department of Agriculture banned "downed cattle" from human food stocks after the 2003 discovery of a Washington state downer with mad cow disease. Still, close to a half million infirm cows are annually dragged to slaughter, JAVMA speculates. Each nonambulatory animal is worth about $30 in hamburger profit. Big dairy operations account for 90-95% of downed cows, asserts Temple Grandin, a Colorado State University animal science professor who considers 75% of cases preventable with humane care.

In the HSUS video, Hallmark handlers electrically shock heads, necks, spines and rectums of cows. Pen manager Daniel Navarro paddles a listless cow in the face and eye. They hoist cows on forklift prongs and roll their big bodies over pavement. They fire concentrated water jets into the cows' nostrils and throats.

I'd never heard a cow scream like that before. "One cow is down on the truck when she arrives," the investigator recounts. "Workers shock her from behind, but she's too weak to stand. A chain is attached to her leg and she's dragged with a forklift. As she's pushed along concrete, you can see it causes her so much pain… A worker drives over her leg and face with the wheels of the forklift. I'd never heard a cow scream like that before."

By itself, Hallmark footage is unremarkable. The breaking news is that it took a guy with a pen camera fastened to his shirt button to reveal that downers — those most likely to test positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) or mad cow disease — easily become dinner. Among 15 confirmed BSE cases in North America, at least 12 were downers. Impaired cows also harbor more E. coli and Salmonella contamination.

The investigator toiled 12-hour days, at $8 an hour, herding cows down chutes to the kill floor. In an anonymous phone interview, he told the Los Angeles Times he observed "brutalization of animals too weak or sick to walk to slaughter. It was so in-your-face. As cows are making their final steps, there's no USDA personnel objecting to this behavior."

His findings prompted a recall of 143,383,823 pounds of beef on 2/7/08. Hallmark, a partner of Westland Meat, lost its USDA contract to furnish beef for America's School Lunch Program. Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) suspended its audits, in effect closing the plant. The Office of the Inspector General subpoenaed proof for the Justice Department to pursue criminal prosecution.

It was a whistle-blower's triumph, as if Horton himself had roused sleeping bureaucrats: "The video, the cows, the people…how true! Hence forth, Kangaroo will protect every creature with you!" But Capitol Hill isn't Seuss-world and former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Edward Schafer is no Kangaroo. In Congressional Hearings spurred by the Hallmark fiasco, Schafer said it's okay for downer cattle to enter the food supply from time to time. He asked the Senate Appropriations Agriculture subcommittee to strike down a legally binding ban on slaughter of downers.

Why do we need a downer law? The Downed Animal Protection Act sets an enforceable industry-wide ban on the transport, marketing and slaughter of all downed animals (not just cows). The Farm Animal Stewardship Purchasing Act requires government-contracted producers to comply with basic humane policies, such as merciful euthanasia for downers. Neither bill has seen much movement beyond committee hearings. Secretary Schafer believes a downer law is unnecessary. The U.S. Senate lets politics trump mercy, again rejecting a measure to ban non-ambulatory cattle in Sept. 2008.

Perhaps, but it's a gamble. Humane nonprofits, not federal watchdogs, expose most animal welfare and food safety breaches. Westland/Hallmark is not a first-time offender. In 1993, the animal protection group Farm Sanctuary filmed Hallmark workers shoving cows with forklifts. Two California groups uncovered 11 verified instances of abuse at Hallmark between 1996 trucks, shock prods and other violent means to move animals is largely ignored. Just 7,600 inspectors monitor 6,200 slaughterplants across the nation.

Evaluating animals often entails "peering down from catwalks at hundreds of animals, looking for telltale signs such as droopy ears, stumbling gait, facial paralysis," the Associated Press disclosed in Feb. 08. Inspections are so irregular, companies clean up their act beforehand.

Past USDA official Mike Taylor says the agency is locked in an old-fashioned mindset, "that doesn't fill the bill on either food safety or animal welfare." Indeed, FSIS fails to screen sick animals, according to an Office of the Inspector General audit that predates the Hallmark debacle. "It's the inevitable outcome of a system in which animal abuse and health concerns are predictable by-products of following the prime directive — maximizing profit — in a context of inadequate oversight," Anna Lappe writes in Largest Beef Recall, Ever. Now, Real Change? for the Huffington Post.
Big Meat has deep political pockets. In 2006, Lappe notes, livestock execs lavished $4.5 million on lobbyists. Nat'l Cattlemen's Beef Assoc PAC gave almost a half million, for a total industry gift that capped $5 million. Agribusiness donated nearly $300 million to Republicans from 1990-2008, Center For Responsive Politics reports.

Policymakers and cattlemen are virtually indistinguishable, Lappe points out. USDA's Communications Director was public relations director for National Cattlemens Beef Association (NCBA). Chief of Staff for previous USDA Secretary Ann Veneman was Cattlemen's director of legislative affairs. USDA's Deputy Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs boasts 15 years experience with the cattle guys. And so on. Critics question USDA's role as promoter/regulator. Some want the agency to stop inspecting the same meat it advertises.

Is cheap meat worth loss of humanity? As experts weigh merits of pre-kill inspection vs. total downer exclusion, they forget the animal on the ground. USDA Sec. Schafer says: "If one goes down, you call the veterinarian to make a judgment."

The "one who goes down" sinks in manure, sometimes for days, as she awaits inspection. From an industry standpoint, "image will improve, both domestically and in export markets…if downers are prevented and when a nonambulatory condition does occur, put down on the farm," writes foodborne-illness litigator Bill Marler in Raw Economics Driving the Use of Downers.

3/14/09: President Barack Obama took office and promptly solidified the USDA's rule with his signature to permanently ban the slaughter of downed cows and close a loophole that left some downers unprotected. While this ban only applies to cows and is still an administrative rule, not a law, it is a positive step beyond the previous administration's inertia.
▲ Get facts in leaflet form ▲
DOWNER ABUSE HALL OF SHAME: A half million downed cows stagger toward kill floors each year, most from industrialized dairy operations. By the time they reach stockyards, they can't stand or walk. Once down, organs collapse against organs, slowly choking out life. Workers use tractors and forklifts to drag animals upright. They're shocked, pounded, hauled in chains. No definitive law exists to end their agony or keep them out of the human food chain, even though scientific evidence shows downers harbor BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) or Mad Cow Disease and other dangerous foodborne pathogens.

  • 1986: Dead cows, sheep, pigs and goats are routinely ground into feed for live animals, until an outbreak of mad cow disease (Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans) sweeps the UK and Europe. Over 15 paranoid years, 3.7 million cows are prematurely killed in the UK alone.

  • 1987: Almost a decade later, U.S. Food & Drug Admin bans ground meat and bone (MBM) as feed for cows. Producers may still mix bovine proteins in poultry and pig feed. No one knows if mad cow jumps from cow to pig, chicken or sheep. By Jan 2002, FDA reports 20% of U.S. feed plants ignore guidelines and many fail to adequately label goods.

  • 12-30-03: Downers barred from food chain in response to Washington dairy cow with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). USDA Sec. Ann Veneman bans eye-skull-brain tissue in cows over 30 months + bans on Advanced Meat Recovery System, air-injected stun guns.

  • 2005-2007: A second mad cow in Texas verifies downer and BSE link. Bush admin tries to dilute USDA rule by omitting downed animals who break limbs in transport — discounting that sick animals, especially with neurological symptoms, are prone to collapse and break bones. 2007: USDA softens ban to let some downers pass into food chain.

  • 9-2008: U.S. Senate again rejects a measure to ban non-ambulatory cattle from becoming food.

  • 3-14-09: Obama admin permanently bans slaughter of cows unable to stand and closes a loophole that kept injured downers alive for slaughter inspection. This is a cows-only USDA rule. Still no downer law.

  • 2011-2012: Rep Gary Ackerman introduces the longstanding Downed Animal and Food Safety Protection Act, though no major actions have occurred since referred to House Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry 1-17-12. The Act "[provides for] humane treatment, handling, and disposition of nonambulatory livestock…including nonambulatory livestock be humanely euthanized."

  • 1-23-12: U.S. Supreme Court overturns California law, Sec. 599f, enacted to protect non-ambulatory pigs and other animals from slaughterhouse abuse. Nat'l Meat Assoc. and American Meat Assoc. fought the law. While Justice Elena Kagan said "many nonambulatory pigs become disabled in transit or after arrival at a slaughterhouse," she still sided with other justices in a decree that no state can impose rules that "fall within the scope of the [Federal Meat Inspection] Act."


ABUSE EXPOSED + MASS BEEF RECALL
► DOWNER ABUSE IN MAINSTREAM NEWS: 1-30-08, Undercover video from Humane Society of U.S. (HSUS) depicts Hallmark Meat Packing Co. workers who kick, ram, shock, harass, and waterboard incapacitated cows. USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) concludes Westland-Hallmark Meat fails to comply with laws that deter animal abuse and keep downers out of food chain.

► NATIONAL SCHOOL LUNCH: USDA suspends Hallmark-Westland Meat Packing Co. as a supplier to America's School Lunch Program. 2-1-08: Hallmark-Westland voluntarily halts all operations.

► LEGAL ACTIONS: 2/4/08, USDA/FSIS withdraws inspectors from Hallmark Meat Packing, citing "egregious violations" of animal care rules.

San Bernardino County D.A. files criminal charges against Hallmark-Westland: 2-15/-08, In possibly the first felony for slaughterplant abuse, police spot 11 illegal actions in HSUS video shot Oct 11 to Nov 9, 2007. Daniel Ugarte Navarro (prior Hallmark pen manager) faces 8 yrs-8 mos in jail if convicted of 5 felony + 3 misdemeanor cruelty counts. Luis Sanchez (Navarro's assistant) faces 3 yrs for 3 misdemeanor counts of machinery use to maneuver animals.

► LARGEST MEAT RECALL IN HISTORY: 2/17/08, USDA activates a Class II recall of 143,383,823 pounds of U.S. beef. "Adulterated" meat may surpass a billion lbs, since Hallmark beef was mixed with other meat.

► HSUS SUES FEDERAL GOVERNMENT, 2-27-08: HSUS files suit in U.S. District Court, alleging USDA's 2007 rule change (that lets some downers into food chain) jeopardizes human health and animal welfare.

CONGRESSIONAL HEARINGS, 2-28-08, begin in Senate Agriculture, Rural Development Appropriations Subcommittee to assess inspection blunders. Ag Secretary Edward Schafer strikes down calls from Democratic senators to ban slaughter of downer cows.

► DOWNED COW BAN REINFORCED, 3-14-09: Pres. Obama solidifies ban on slaughter of downed cows and closes loophole that left some downers unprotected. Ban only applies to cows and is a USDA rule, not a law. Still, it exceeds the prior admin's inertia. No dying animal should be rammed upright with tractors and forklifts…hauled, shocked and pounded…so meat makers can eke about $30 out of her tortured body.

► BEFORE SCANDAL: Westland/Hallmark case blows lid off a Pandora's box of lax rules that don't shield humans from disease or animals from torture. FSIS failed to screen sick cows long before Hallmark recall. Los Angeles Times


Hallmark's history of USDA transgressions: 2006, USDA finds Hallmark had killed cows forced upright for inspection since Feb. 2006. 2005: USDA records animal welfare breaches, such as "too much electric prodding."

1996 & 2004: Two California humane groups contact USDA repeatedly after their probe unveils 11 instances of animal abuse at Hallmark. 1993: Farm Sanctuary films Hallmark jostling debilitated animals with forklifts.

► INEPT, OLD FASHIONED: "USDA's inspectors are locked into an antiquated form of inspection that doesn't fill the bill on food safety or animal welfare." 2008, Mike Taylor, past USDA food-safety official

12-9-08: An Inspector General audit shows 50% of kill plants fail passing grades. "In most industries, a 50% failure rate qualifies as a systemic problem." CattleNetwork, Hallmark/Westland Might Not Be An Anomaly

4-14-08: Stan Painterhead, head of a union representing 6,000 federal food inspectors, tells House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee that the Agriculture Dept. tries to intimidate employees who report violations. After a mad cow scare in 2003, he told superiors new food safety regulations for slaughtered cattle were not uniformly enforced. Painter was told to drop the matter, and when he didn't, was grilled by department officials and then placed on disciplinary investigative status. He says supervisors tell workers to "let the system work" rather than cite slaughterhouses for violations.

2007-2008: USDA claims 1,000 inspection posts are vacant. FSIS Field Operations supervises just 7,600 inspectors for 6,200+ slaughter/processing plants. Inspectors admit to Associated Press (2-22-08) that a scant work force allows abuse of animals headed to kill floors. "At times inspectors who examine cattle for mad-cow disease are so short-staffed [they] peer down from catwalks at hundreds of animals, looking for telltale signs like droopy, ears, stumbling gait and facial paralysis."

2004: Cows in Canada and U.S. — originally considered non-ambulatory as a result of calving injuries, pneumonia, and a broken leg — test positive for mad cow disease and initiate worldwide panic. Without an industry-wide ban on the transport, marketing and slaughter of ALL downed animals, USDA plays a guessing game.

► CRONYISM, USDA-STYLE: Big Meat regulates itself, due in part to a consolidated trade with Tyson, Cargill's Excel, Swift & Co., and National Beef dominating 71% of the market. In 2006, the livestock trade lavished $4.5 million on lobbyists. National Cattlemen's Beef Assoc. PAC gave close to a half million dollars for a political gift that capped $5 million. 1990 to 2006: Agribusiness gave over $381 million to GOP campaigns, Center For Responsive Politics.

Policymakers and cattlemen are almost indistinguishable. A USDA Communications Director was a Nat'l Cattlemen's Beef Assoc. public relations director. Chief of Staff for former USDA Sec. Ann Veneman was Cattlemen's legislative affairs director. USDA Deputy Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs boasts 15 years with the cattle guys. And so on. Critics question USDA's dual role as regulator of the same agri-products it promotes.

► MAD COW CONNECTION: Downers have a strain of BSE (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy) or mad cow disease. Virus-like prions in BSE can trigger Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease, a fatal nervous system infection in humans. CJD causes neurological symptoms such as amnesia and coordination loss. A U.S. Congressional Government Accountability Office study defines the incubation phase for mad cow as 2-8 years in animals and 30 years in people. Of 15 mad cow cases on record in North America, all originated in downer cows.

Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE) has surfaced in deer, elk, sheep, goats. No one knows how TSE jumps the species barrier; all downers are suspect. Impaired animals collapse in feces and have no immune defense against E. coli or Salmonella bacteria. E. coli has prompted recalls of some 30 million pounds of beef since April 2007. Animal welfare and human safety are sacrificed for revenue when goods come from animals at risk for TSE and other transmissible disease pathogens.







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