September 8, 2017 10:36:44 AM
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is asking Mississippi State University's police department to investigate and file animal cruelty charges against MSU Meat Science Laboratory workers after U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors observed two instances of inhumane slaughters this year.
In a letter emailed to MSU Police Chief Vance Rice, PETA cites two USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service reports that detail ineffective incapacitations via stunning -- when cattle are knocked unconscious with a captive bolt gun before slaughter -- that led to workers "slashing the necks of conscious cows," causing them to "cry out and even walk around for three minutes, while bleeding from their throats."
Melissa Mary Wilson, the PETA attorney who signed the letter, wrote the workers' conduct appeared to violate state statute outlining misdemeanor animal cruelty.
"The workers were apparently at least criminally negligent when they unjustifiably injured the cattle. During both incidents, the workers should have been aware, as the federal official or officials were, that the cows were ineffectively stunned -- and still conscious -- before slashing the animals' throats," she wrote.
On March 2, the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service informed MSU of a failure "to effectively implement humane methods of slaughtering and handling of animals" according to the Federal Meat Inspection Act and the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.
That day, a USDA letter states, workers cut a cow's throat after it wasn't effectively rendered unconscious by a captive bolt gun.
The animal "slid to the floor and then rose to a standing position," the letter states, while "blood flowed freely from the severed jugular vein." The cow "was conscious and agitated, and walked around the enclosed space for an additional three minutes" before a second botched stun attempt -- the captive bolt gun was fired into its neck instead of its head -- was performed.
A third attempt to incapacitate the animal proved effective, the letter states.
After the incident, the MSU Meat Laboratory provided corrective and preventative action plans to the USDA aimed at curbing noncompliance issues with the HMSA.
On Aug. 17, another cow's throat was cut after a failed initial stun attempt but before another attempt was made to incapacitate the animal, a second USDA letter states.
The PETA letter characterized the incident as showing a "noncompliance of humane handling that is egregious."
In a release, PETA Senior Vice President for Cruelty Investigations Daphna Nachminovitch said, "There's no difference between the pain and terror that these animals felt and the way that dogs and cats would feel if their throats were slit while they were fully conscious."
In an emailed statement, MSU Chief Communications Officer Sid Salter didn't directly answer any of the allegations but said the Meat Science Laboratory would "work within existing USDA and university guidelines to correct any deficiencies in (its) operating policies."
"By longstanding university policy and by practice, Mississippi State University is committed to ensuring all animals used in teaching and research receive humane care and use," Salter said. "Our policies exist to ensure that animal care and use in research and teaching at MSU are in full compliance with all local, state, and federal laws, regulations, and policies regarding animal welfare. In evaluating the incidents referenced, the U.S. Department of Agriculture in both cases noted that MSU has 'a robust systematic approach to humane handling and slaughter' -- which is clear in our policies and practice."
Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @StarkDispatch
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