veal

An undercover investigation conducted by the Humane Society of the United States last month resulted in the USDA shutting down a long-standing veal slaughter plant. But just days after the violations forced the plant to close, the agency has allowed it to reopen for business.

New Jersey-based Catelli Brothers is one of the largest veal and lamb producers in the country, reports Food Safety News. “After being provided with a video copy and a complaint from HSUS, USDA opted to suspend the company’s operations by removing all federal meat inspectors from the slaughterhouse.”

The federal inspectors left the facility after the video revealed shocking animal abuse, “unconscious but living calves, one disabled and being dragged and another one on a faulty ‘kill’ line,” reports Food Safety News. “The gruesome video shows one calf, bleeding from having its neck slit, still remains conscious while being shot several times with a stun gun that is supposed to humanely kill with one shot. A ‘downer’ calf that cannot walk is shown being dragged.”

The move earned the USDA praise from HSUS: “Downed calves are still suffering the sort of appalling abuses that we exposed in 2009 at another calf slaughter plant in Vermont,” said Wayne Pacelle, HSUS president and CEO. “We commend USDA for taking action to shut down the operation at Catelli Brothers, but it’s long past time to close the loophole in the downed animal rule that perpetuates continuing cruelty to young calves.”

The Catelli Brothers’ facility has been in operation for 65 years, and president and CEO Tony Catelli said that any animal abuse is “unacceptable,” and that company policy prohibits processing downed calves.

After reviewing the video and shutting down operation, the USDA said it would lift the suspension based on how quickly Catelli Brothers can “respond” to the abuses with extensive corrective action needed. “Catelli Brothers will have to document what went wrong and how it came about and specific actions it will take to make sure the abuses do not happen in the future,” reports Food Safety News.

But just days after the inspectors shut down the facility, USDA gave Catelli Brothers the go-ahead to be back in operation. In a statement released by the company, Tony Catelli said, “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.” The company claims to have brought on “two nationally recognized third-party experts in humane animal handling” who have made specific recommendations that “we have already begun to incorporate.”

Bernie Rollin, distinguished professor of animal science at Colorado State University, noted that “of all the atrocity videos I have viewed, the [HSUS] video of the slaughterhouse at Catelli Brothers must be ranked among the three worst.” Food Safety News reports that he called for the plant to be “closed down immediately.”

Find Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

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