central valley meat investigation

Video Uncovers Extreme Cruelty to Cows at Slaughter Plant

Footage reveals cows routinely suffocated, shocked, and improperly “stunned” before slaughter

August 21, 2012


Contact: Erica Meier, Executive Director 301-891-2458

Los Angeles – Compassion Over Killing, a national animal protection charity, released undercover video footage exposing rampant animal abuse and suffering inside Central Valley Meat Co. (CVM), a slaughterhouse in Hanford, Calif. CVM is a major supplier to the USDA’s National School Lunch Program and other federal food initiatives.

The video, filmed by a COK investigator who worked at the facility in June and July 2012, documents egregious inhumane treatment, improper slaughter methods, and intentional cruelty forced upon these animals in the last moments of their lives. After viewing the footage, the USDA shut down the facility, citing “egregious inhumane handling and treatment of livestock.”

Like all federally inspected slaughterhouses, CVM is required to comply with federal animal welfare requirements as well as California’s animal protection laws. However, COK’s whistleblowing video uncovers acts of cruelty that appear to violate both state and federal laws, such as:

  • Downed cows, unable to walk to the kill floor, shot in the head two, three, even four times, and workers often walking away while the animal continues to struggle and kick.
  • Some downed cows who were still alive after being shot in the head were then suffocated by workers who stood on their mouths and nostrils preventing the cows from breathing.
  • Cows being tortured – repeatedly hit, jabbed, electrically shocked, and sprayed with hot water – in a narrow chute leading to the kill floor. One cow was electrically shocked over 40 times.
  • Sick or injured cows repeatedly being shocked and workers pulling or lifting them by their tails in an attempt to force them to stand and walk.
  • Improper stunning of animals prior to slaughter – many cows were thrashing, kicking, and clearly breathing after being shot in the head. Yet these animals are moved through the slaughter process onto a conveyor belt and then hoisted upside-down by one leg.

Former USDA inspector and supervisor Lester Friedlander, DVM, also reviewed COK’s video and wrote in a statement, “I could not believe the repeated Humane Slaughter Violations that occurred… The company… should be held accountable for these violations.”

In addition to selling meat to the USDA, CVM also supplies major companies, including In-N-Out Burger, a California-based burger chain. Most of the animals slaughtered by CVM are “spent” dairy cows who are no longer economically viable as milk-producers to the dairy industry.

“It’s shameful – and illegal – that these cows, many of whom are sick or injured, are forced to endure such blatant abuses at the hands of the meat industry,” says COK’s general counsel Cheryl Leahy, “And it’s alarming that this was happening in a USDA-inspected facility with meat from this facility being fed to our nation’s children.”

In 2008, the Humane Society of the United States uncovered similar abuses inside Hallmark-Westland, another California dairy cow slaughter plant and USDA supplier. That video revealed violations of state and federal animal welfare requirements and resulted in the largest-ever meat recall in U.S. history.

The most effective way consumers can protect animals and their health is to simply leave cows, and all other animals, off our plates.

For more information, including investigative footage and photos, visit: COK.net/californiacows.


Compassion Over Killing (COK) is a national nonprofit animal protection organization based in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Since 1995, COK has worked to end the abuse of animals in agriculture through undercover investigations, public outreach, litigation, and other advocacy programs. Online at COK.net.