BURLEY — People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has asked that criminal charges be filed against a Burley beef slaughterhouse that had difficulties killing two cows.
Workers at Ida-Beef shot a downed cow three times in the head on Jan. 10 before the animal became unconscious. A second lame cow had to be shot twice in the head before it died, a report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture said.
Colin Henstock, investigations specialist with PETA, said in a letter March 14 to Cassia County Prosecutor Doug Abenroth that the conduct appears to violate Idaho law, which also allows workers to be held criminally liable for cruelty to animals.
“These disturbing revelations show that these cows experienced prolonged, agonizing deaths at Ida-Beef,” PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch said. “PETA is calling for a criminal investigation on behalf of the animals who suffered at this facility and compassionate members of the public.”
Abenroth said his office has received the request for criminal charges against the company and the matter is under review by his office.
“This is just PETA doing what PETA does,” Ida Beef owner Allan Ward said.
The company remains open and is processing about 160 dairy cows daily, he said.
“The dairy cows that come here are mostly the old, slow ones that are pretty much at the end of the road,” he said.
In the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service report, the inspector saw two cows that could not walk in the corner of a pen. A worker returned to the pens with a captive bolt stunner to euthanize the cows. The first to stun the first cow sounded muffled and weak, the report states. The worker checked the cow and determined it needed a second shot, then left the pen area and went inside to retrieve different cartridges.
The report said the cow was still conscious and it lifted its head straight up with steam coming from its nostrils.
When the worker returned and delivered a second shot to the animal, its head dropped, but after a couple of moments, it started to raise straight back up again. The worker then delivered a third shot to the cow.
The worker then went to euthanize the second cow, which was still pinned up against the rail of the pen next to the deceased cow.
The employee delivered a shot to the second cow and about five minutes later the cow raised its head off the carcass of the first cow. The inspector immediately notified the company representative that the cow appeared to be returning to consciousness. The plant employee moved into the pen with the stun gun and the cow raised its head once more. When the cow was shot a second time, its head fell and rested on the first cow.
Ward said the incident occurred because a bullet was wet and it did not fire properly.
“He didn’t have an extra bullet on him and it took about 45 seconds to go get another one,” Ward said. “Nobody here is being cruel.”
There are three USDA inspectors at the plant from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day, he said.
“We are governed by the USDA and they are watching us all the time,” he said. “That was the first time we’ve had an incident like that happen. We try to do things the right way and by the book.”
The USDA issued a notice of intended enforcement in lieu of suspension of the company, which was required to provide an analysis of the incident.
Since the company promptly responded and showed it was taking corrective action, the agency has not suggested any further discipline, which could have included suspension, USDA spokesman Buck McKay said.
The USDA report said the event was not in compliance with state regulations requiring captive bolt stunners be applied to livestock so it produces immediate unconsciousness in the animals before they are shackled, hoisted, thrown, cast or cut.
“The animals shall be stunned in such a manner that they will be rendered unconscious with a minimum of excitement and discomfort,” the report states.
The regulation also says the stunning operation is an exact procedure and requires a well-trained and experienced operator. The person must be able to accurately place the stunning instrument to produce immediate unconsciousness and use the correct detonating charge with regard to the kind, breed, size, age and sex of the animal.
The slaughterhouse opened in January 2018 and plans to eventually process 350 to 400 cows a day.