Natural Health Remedies | Health Blog

Date: 02/18/2008    Written by: Jon Barron

Eating Very Mad Cows


Here's yet another disturbing story about meat, right on the heels of last week's post on a related topic. According to the Los Angeles Times, several members of Congress last week called for an independent investigation into the safety of beef supplied to public schools, responding to concerns raised by a horrifying video showing sick cows being tortured enroute to the slaughterhouse. The video, filmed at one of the nation's largest meat suppliers, shows weak and sick cows unable to stand and being subjected to torture in order to force them to walk. Regulations require that cows walk from one pen to the next to prove that they are healthy enough to slaughter. According to ABC News, Hallmark/Westland Meat Company, where the footage was shot, "is the No. 2 supplier of beef to a USDA program that distributes the beef to needy families, the elderly, and also to schools, through the National School Lunch Program."

The video was obtained by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) as part of a six-week undercover investigation into slaughterhouse practices. HSUS spokesmen said that some of the cows in the video were actually dairy cows too sick or old to produce milk, so they allegedly were "recycled" to be slaughtered for beef. In spite of the rules, the videotaped debacle occurred under the noses of eight onsite USDA inspectors., although the USDA officially bans both the torture of domestic animals and the use of "downer cows" (cows unable to stand) for meat because the weakened animals are up to 50 times more susceptible to bovine spongiform encephalopathy (Mad Cow disease). Given the long incubation period of Mad Cow, those who ate beef from the downer cows may still be at risk.

Ironically, the Halllmark-Westland Meat Company was named "Supplier of the Year" in 2004. The company distributed meat to more than 100,000 child-care facilities and schools in the US, but the investigation has provoked schools in 50 states to pull beef from their menus.

Predictably, finger-pointing in response to the congressional action has reached a fevered pitch. Westland president Steve Mendell blamed his staff. "Operations have been immediately suspended until we can meet with all of our employees, and be assured these sorts of activities never again happen at our facility," he said, after firing several workers.

Meanwhile, the US Secretary of Agriculture, Ed Shafer, blamed the Humane Society. "It is unfortunate that the Humane Society of the United States did not present this information to us when these alleged violations occurred in the fall of 2007," he said after suspending operations at the Westland plant. "Had we known at the time the alleged violations occurred, we would have initiated our investigation sooner, and taken appropriate actions at that time." This statement was issued in spite of the aforementioned eight onsite inspectors.

The Humane Society insists that it did, in fact, submit extensive evidence of the abusive and unsafe practices at the conclusion of the investigation, but that local authorities refused to release the information, asking for extra time. The Los Angeles Times believes their version of the story. "U.S. Department of Agriculture has 7,800 pairs of eyes scrutinizing 6,200 slaughterhouses and food processors across the nation," it reports. "But in the end, it took an undercover operation by an animal rights group to reveal that beef from ill and abused cattle had entered the human food supply."

The USDA has now undertaken an investigation, but critics don't believe they can do a fair and unbiased job; thus the congressional call for an independent investigation. "USDA policies" are allowing slaughtering and processing plants to use the National School Lunch Program as a dumping ground for bad meat," says Representative Rosa DeLauro, who threatened to hold a hearing on the matter. And California Representative George Miller, chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, said, "I'm not sure it can be dealt with, with just the department investigating itself." He further noted that the department has a poor record of getting out news of important food safety issues.

For now, carnivores who view the video might consider buying a copy of The Vegetarian Epicure. Although the Hallmark/Westland plant has been shut down by the USDA, similar practices undoubtedly occur at competitive plants. And for those who are able to cast aside the images of the tortured cows bellowing in agony, the thought of these broken, diseased, almost quadraplegic animals making their way onto your dinner plate has got to give you pause. When you think about it, it makes true Kobe beef, raised on beer and sake and daily massages, seem like quite the bargain at $100 a steak.

P.S. In a better-late-than-never move, the USDA just recalled 143 million pounds of frozen beef from a Hallmark/Westland warehouse in Chino, California. According to USDA spokesman Ed Schafer, the agency has evidence that Westland allowed downer cows to go to slaughter when the cows became infirm after they already had passed inspection. Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives at Consumers Union comments, "…it's somewhat disturbing, given that obviously much of this food has already been eaten. It's really closing the barn door after the cows left."

Let's hope that the barn door really is closed.


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    Submitted by Jennifer M. on
    February 18, 2008 - 9:11am

    Hallmark-Westland is my local public school's supplier. A couple of weeks ago, the LAUSD (or at least our charter) stopped serving all beef products on its menu. This more than explains why - but the bigger question is, why does it take the Humane Society's undercover camera work to expose how this company dealt with downed cows, when it really should be the USDA's job? The question answers itself, actually.
    Thanks for an interesting and blood-curdling (no pun intended) read.

    Submitted by Jon Barron on
    February 29, 2008 - 4:27am

    It seems you will go to any lengths to avoid reading (or listening) to the appropriate chapter in Miracle Doctors. When you do, you will see that we most closely match frugivores, such as chimpanzees and the great apes.

    Submitted by Jon Barron on
    February 26, 2008 - 3:46am

    I think the comparisons are extremely inaccurate. When you can finally download the book, you well see that man, dogs, and sheep have very different teeth, stomachs, and ratios of intestinal tract length to torso length. My goodness, just look at a dog's teeth and then look at your teeth in the mirror. Do you really thing they are similar?
    PS: If you can't download the Adobe version of the book, you can listen to the chapter as an audio file online.

    Submitted by Jon Barron on
    February 25, 2008 - 7:57am

    Actually, not being smug at all. Human beings definitely do not qualify as ""omnivores"" -- don't have the teeth or stomachs for it. I cover this in detail in Chapter 6 of Lessons from the Miracle Doctors. You can download a free copy at

    Submitted by Jordan on
    February 26, 2008 - 1:16am

    Unfortunately, I can't download anything right now. I tried to download Adobe twice, and for whatever reason it won't work on my computer. Weird.
    My dictionary defines ""omnivorous"" as ""Eating both vegetable and animal substances."" So I can't understand why we don't ""qualify"" as omnivores. We can and do eat plant and animal foods. Unlike unprocessed grains or legumes, we can actually digest meat.
    I assume you think that we neither qualify as omnivores or carnivores. So what do you make of this comparison of the digestive systems of humans, dogs, and sheep:

    Submitted by Jordan on
    February 29, 2008 - 1:52am

    Thanks for your response. But I'm still curious about something. If we're neither omnivores nor carnivores, what exactly are we??? We're certainly nothing like many herbivores, like cows and their multiple stomachs.

    Submitted by Jordan on
    February 25, 2008 - 7:48am

    Why do you keep using the term "carnivore?" Very few humans eat no plant foods. The more accurate term would be omnivore. I guess you're being smug...?

    Submitted by Linda A. Reynolds, Ed.S. on
    February 24, 2008 - 1:11pm

    On behalf of Americans who came from families who taught, believe, and practice respect, dignity, and humane treatment of all creations on this planet, I am beyond the point of shame and sadness that we actually have to beg for rights that people like my beloved father fought in 3 wars for - life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness with regard for the dignity and sanctity of life. I don't give a hoot who the cowards are that committed the unspeakable abuse,the weak loosers who are paid by our "government" to show care of all animals, or the disgusting head of the Hallmark Meat Cruel/Inhumane Meat Packing Plant playing even dumber than he is about his "company," or the indifferent, callous, and misleading looser secretary of agriculture, this does not take away from the Truth of what has happened! These animals are unfortunately and defenselessly raised for slaughter- for crying out loud, do you mean that this is the best humane care for these misfortunate animals in 2008? SHAME AND DISGUST ON ALL OF YOU MENTIONED ABOVE. EACH OF YOU HAD OPPORTUNITIES TO DO WHAT WAS RIGHTEOUS AT THE TIME YOU WERE MADE AWARE OF THIS. TOO LITTLE TO LATE. I ONLY HOPE THAT SOMETIME, SOMEHOW EACH OF YOU RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY CRUELTY OR INDIFFERENCE ARE SENTENCED BY LIFE TO LIVE IN PAIN, SUFFERING, AND TREATED WITH EXCUSES AND INDIFFERENCE. I CAN ASSURE YOU THAT YOU WILL DEFINITELY PUT DOWN YOUR TOOLS OF COWARDESS, AND LEARN FROM "REAL MEN AND WOMEN" THE TRAITS OF DIGNITY, HONOR, HUMANE TREATMENT OF ALL, AND MOST OF ALL "HONESTY." BRAVO AND CONGRATULATIONS TO THE SUPERIOR INDIVIDUALS OF THE HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES AND ALL OTHER RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS FOR THE VOICELESS IN OUR SOCIETY. Our country is still full of magnificent individuals inspite of the presence of disgusting pople who truly have made me sick. Me, my family, friends, ect. cannot even eat beef without worrying that the animal slaughtered was treated with dignity of life and humanely. I am so very glad that there is a judgment day of accountability for each person. LORD HELP ALL OF US FROM THE UNRIGHTEOUS WORKS OF THOSE WHO ARE SELFISH AND GREEDY. I WOULD LIKE TO SEE THE INDIFFERENT, ABUSERS, CRUEL TASK-MASTERS, KILLERS, ETC. GIVE AN ACCOUNT ON JUDGMENT DAY TO THE FINAL AND ETERNAL JUDGE.

    Submitted by mark on
    February 19, 2008 - 8:24am

    RE: Westland/Hallmark Meat Co
    I hold you, Mr Secretary Ed Schafer and the USDA personally responsible for NOT monitoring this slaughter house and the inhumane treatment of animals we have witnessed and the processing of Downer Cows into the food supply of our Children. Myself along with millions of other Americans are Red meat eaters and are so because WE believe that these animals are treated with dignity and care when killed. You will have to do much better job than you have been to convince me now that the USDA, under your guard is capable of managing this industry wide problem. You have failed us.
    First: I want STEVE MENDELL, President of Westland/Hallmark Meat Co to be made an example to the others. Secondly: I want Westland/Hallmark Meat shut down for good. Thirdly, I want you, Mr Secretary, to show some true leadership and character by reforming all other Slaughterhouse practices in America. You are about to become the “Poster Child” for animal abuse across the country! why"" Because you have known about this problem since 2006. May I remind you, a 2006 audit by your USDA inspector general found downer cows were still being processed for food and that USDA's policy was inconsistent. At two of 12 plants visited from June 2004 to April 2005, downer cattle were slaughtered for food. One facility processed 27 of them, the other slaughtered two. Do the math: A downer cow typically brings $250 to $300 at slaughter. Sending the same animal to a rendering plant costs the owner $20 to $50 per carcass. You have been swindled Mr. Secretary and your ineffectiveness has compromised the health and welfare of our children and our animals. Please don’t tell me that you cannot put a USDA employee at every slaughterhouse and food processing plant in America 24/7. Don’t tell me that you cannot effectively impose and enforce fines and penalties. I am confident that you and your commitment to your career and legacy will find a way since your name and reputation is clearly on the radar of Americans now.
    If you really truly believe in your final purpose in life, you need to turn this around an become a champion for animal rights reform and safety! This entire problem is now on your head! Solve this problem for the rest of your time, for our children and for the dignity of all animals!
    I would strongly consider your next actions, Mr. Secretary or consider resigning before the American public forces you to in disgrace.

    Submitted by Tracy on
    February 19, 2008 - 5:54am

    The recall goes back to meat from 2006. Gross! I'm so glad I'm vegan. :)

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