NEW YORK, and DES MOINES, Iowa – The New Jersey veal slaughter plant shut down after an undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States has received an OK from USDA to reopen.
“We are asking the USDA to close its loophole regarding downer animals.” says HSUS New York Director Brian Shapiro. He says that’s why there was even an investigation in the first place. HSUS claims rules from USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service are clear that adult “downer” cattle (livestock animals unable to stand on their own) cannot be put into the food supply. Not the case with calves, says Shapiro.
“There’s a loophole in USDA law that allows downer calves not to be humanely slaughtered,” says Shapiro. “If it’s an adult cow, that cow needs to be humanely slaughtered and not put into the food system. We went into Catelli brothers; what we saw was quite disturbing. We brought it to the attention of USDA inspectors, and they agreed.”
Since USDA pulled its inspectors from the plant, Catelli Brothers has consulted with third-party experts in humane animal handling, and has agreed to install new animal-stunning equipment, to eliminate the movement of non-ambulatory animals, to increase both employee and driver training, and to install remote video surveillance equipment for monitoring operations at the plant by a third party.
In a statement on the company’s website, reproduced below, President and CEO Tony Catelli said accountability, responsibility, continuous improvement and ongoing monitoring will be central to the company’s programs going forward. The full statement is reproduced below.
“We are pleased that USDA has approved our corrective actions, and that we are able to reopen our plant. We were very deliberate in taking the time to ensure our actions are robust and that they will continue to exceed expectations for animal care and humane food production practices.
“Two nationally recognized third-party experts in humane animal handling have made specific recommendations that we have already begun to incorporate. In addition, a PAACO-certified trainer has retrained all of our employees.
“Catelli Brothers will be the first veal plant in the country to install Arrowsight, a 24/7, third-party remote video surveillance and auditing of animal handling and processing procedures. Arrowsight is a program developed in cooperation with Dr. Temple Grandin, an expert in humane animal handling.
“Additional steps we are taking include reaffirming our policy against the processing of non-ambulatory animals; increased quality assurance audits of both animal welfare practices and of the harvest process itself; retraining on humane handling practices and specific disciplinary measures for employees who violated those practices; and retraining all company transportation partners on Catelli animal handling and proper transportation procedures.
“Accountability, responsibility, continuous improvement, and ongoing monitoring will be central to our programs going forward. We are pleased to have reopened our plant and resume the production of wholesome, high-quality veal. Our work to be proactive in addressing the issues that have been raised will help to ensure our plant operates responsibly and always with the highest regard for the care of our calves.
“Maintaining public confidence in Catelli Brothers and in the safety and quality of the veal we produce is of critical importance to me, to my family and to our employees, and has been for two generations. We appreciate the community’s understanding and support as we worked to resolve these issues.”
In Iowa, an investigation like the one conducted by HSUS in New Jersey is a serious misdemeanor, which carries a fine between $315 and $1,875, and if the court orders it, jail time not exceeding one year.