WASHINGTON — The Humane Society of the United States, in a press conference here yesterday with Reps. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and George Miller, D-Calif., claimed that the Hallmark/Westland Packing Plant was chosen at random for their recent undercover investigation, which obtained video footage that has led to the recall of 143 million pounds of beef — the largest beef recall in U.S. history. According to Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive officer of HSUS, “There are 6,200 facilities across the country that the [U.S. Department of Agriculture] inspects, and we chose this one and found egregious abuses that USDA, the Humane Society of the U.S., the cattlemen and really every other entity that has commented on the footage [describes] as deplorable. So we all agree that the behavior exhibited is unacceptable. The fact that we selected this at random I think is troubling. We didn’t do a larger risk assessment and then zero in on this one facility. The video footage, which features several cows that are unable to walk being forced around in a slaughter facility with forklifts and cattle prods, or dragged with chains, led the USDA to issue the Class II recall, acknowledging that rules against processing downer cattle had been broken, and that the animals did not receive proper inspection. Rep. DeLauro, chair of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, said she planned to hold hearings in March with the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to determine why the agency, which had inspectors on site, failed to address the problems earlier. She will also hold a separate investigation regarding the supplier’s work with the USDA’s school lunch program, she said, “to ensure that the school lunch program does not become the industry’s dumping ground for bad meat.” Hallmark/Westland was the second largest meat supplier to the U.S. public school system.
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