Caught on Camera: Cow, Unable to Walk, Suffers Through Multiple Head Traumas at Slaughterhouse; Blatant Food Safety Violations Also Alleged


Pet food maker Bravo Packing has long, sordid past of troubling animal abuse allegations, food safety concerns

Carney’s Point, New Jersey – July 21, 2021 – Animal Outlook, a national non-profit animal protection organization, today announced that it is calling for criminal charges to be brought against Bravo Packing (not associated with Bravo Pet Food), which slaughters cattle to produce and distribute Performance Dog Diet dog food. Bravo slaughters horses at the same facility to produce food for exotic animals. The organization is also calling for criminal charges to be brought against J&S Barr, LLC, a live animal hauler that advertises its services as “[r]emoval of dead cows, horses, sheep, goats, and alpacas up to 40 miles of Quarryville, PA.”

Recently, an Animal Outlook investigator recorded video footage of a non-ambulatory or “downed” cow being delivered to and cruelly slaughtered at Bravo in a protracted episode that they claim violated both federal and state law. A “downed” cow is one who is ill or injured and unable to stand or walk without assistance. 

Bravo Packing

In the video, one of the workers enters the trailer where the cow lies suffering from apparent illness or injury impairing her ability to stand and makes the first of many attempts to stun her with a handheld captive bolt pistol, a device that drives a steel bolt into a cow’s head to fracture the skull and cause trauma to the brain and surrounding blood vessels. Next, the workers attach a metal chain to the cow and drag her off the trailer until she slips over the edge and slams with her full weight onto the concrete. There she lies writhing  in blood and  feces. The  cow is “displaying clear signs of consciousness” during this time, according to a veterinarian who reviewed the video speaking anonymously due to fear of retribution. “Her repeated distressed vocalizations and bodily movements … clearly indicate distress, pain, and suffering,” according to the veterinarian.

 Over the course of the nearly 17-minute video, the Bravo worker botches several more attempts to stun the cow, each time driving a bolt into her skull and causing brain trauma but failing to render her unconscious, according to the veterinarian. Between each unsuccessful stun attempt, he nonchalantly works on preparing a pair of carcasses for use as animal food near the pools of blood, standing water and mounds of feces surrounding the suffering cow, in disregard of the potential for contamination. Throughout the ordeal, she kicks and moans until eventually the worker succeeds in stunning her, though only after more than ten minutes of unnecessary torment. Finally, he shackles her, hoists her and cuts her throat.

 Animal Outlook has made complaints alleging Bravo and Barr’s actions violate multiple federal and state laws, including the federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, the New Jersey Humane Treatment of Domestic Livestock Regulations, New Jersey’s animal cruelty law, the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, and New Jersey’s food safety laws.

“Bravo Packing has cruelly slaughtered vulnerable cows and horses in filthy, deplorable conditions for over a decade, profiting off the sale of their carcasses to unsuspecting consumers,” said Will Lowrey, counsel at Animal Outlook. “Bravo and Barr’s treatment of this helpless cow was not only callous — we allege that it was illegal. This incident should serve as the final straw for Bravo Packing. We strongly urge New Jersey and federal authorities to intervene and close the company for good to spare other animals from such suffering and to protect consumers from Bravo’s dangerously tainted products.”  

Animal Outlook Alleges Violations of Federal, State Food Safety Laws

In a separate investigation, Animal Outlook discovered Salmonella contamination in a sample of Bravo’s Performance Dog Diet dog food. The group filed a December 2020 complaint against Bravo that led to an FDA investigation and a recall of Bravo products in March 2021. The recall was later expanded to include other Bravo products due to the risk of cross-contamination. 

Animal Outlook’s complaint alleges that the conduct most recently recorded at Bravo constitutes the production of adulterated food and violates both federal and state law.

This event is far from the first time Bravo has produced “adulterated” products. Bravo’s long and continuing pattern of disturbing food safety violations is well documented:

  • In 2016, following the collection of samples during an inspection, the FDA issued a letter stating that Bravo had sold horse meat for exotic animal food that was dangerously “contaminated with Pentobarbital and Phenytoin.”
  • In 2018, the FDA received a consumer complaint alleging that Bravo’s products are produced “from dead, dying and disabled livestock,” including the meat of horses euthanized using sodium pentobarbital, and that the company’s marketing claims that it used only beef obtained from USDA-inspected plants were fraudulent. In response, the FDA inspected Bravo and subsequently announced a recall of “all Performance Dog products” because of their “potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.”
  • In 2019, the FDA inspected Bravo as a follow-up to the 2018 recall. During this inspection, the FDA collected a sample of Performance Dog that tested positive for Salmonella and Listeria monocytogene. Accordingly, the FDA declared the raw pet foods Bravo manufactured to be “adulterated.” The government publicly cautioned pet owners not to feed their pets any Performance Dog and to throw the product away “in a secure container where other animals, including wildlife, cannot access it.”

Bravo’s Egregious Acts of Cruelty Against a “Downed” Cow Represent Only the Latest in a Long, Sordid History of Animal Cruelty

  • In 2008, actor and horse activist Amanda Sorvino investigated Bravo Packing and captured graphic video and still images of emaciated horses, a horse who had been smashed in the eye with a baseball bat, a horse with a severe bacterial infection of one leg and a Bravo employee openly discussing skinning horses alive.
  • In 2009, Monty Merola, the son of owner Joseph Merola and an employee of Bravo, was charged with two counts of animal cruelty. He died before he could be convicted.
  • In 2018, an animal cruelty complaint against Bravo was filed, alleging that:
    • Horses were intentionally starved to produce “lean quality” meat for exotic animal food.
    • Severely emaciated horses and downed cows—some with injuries and open wounds—languished on the filthy concrete floor beside dead cows, pools of blood and body parts.
    • Sick and emaciated animals delivered to Bravo were kept in barren pens, fed only moldy hay and left to suffer for months before their eventual slaughter.

For more than a decade, Bravo has abused and neglected countless cows and horses with impunity. While the FDA has imposed penalties and prompted recalls for a variety of food safety issues identified at Bravo in recent years—including in March 2021 after an Animal Outlook complaint—no agency has taken meaningful action to punish Bravo for countless acts of animal cruelty. Despite years of allegations supported by video, audio and photographic evidence depicting abhorrent and unlawful mistreatment of cows and horses, Bravo has continued abusing animals without criminal penalties.

About Animal Outlook
Animal Outlook is a national nonprofit 501(c)(3) animal advocacy organization based in Washington, DC. Our mission: Working today to build a better tomorrow for all animals. We’re strategically challenging the status quo of animal agribusiness through undercover investigations, legal advocacy, corporate and food system reform, and empowering everyone to choose vegan.

Read Animal Outlook’s food safety complaint letter

Read Animal Outlook’s animal cruelty complaint letter | Appendix

Media contact:
Mary Beth Olsen