CANTON — Allegations of the abuse of cattle at a Heuvelton slaughterhouse are being investigated by the St. Lawrence County District Attorney’s office.
Ward Willard & Son, 4496 Route 812, has twice been issued suspensions of the assignment of Inspection Program Personnel (IPP) by The U.S. Department of Agriculture for what they reported are violations in how they “stunned” cows on two different dates in August.
In each instance, the USDA reported that a new employee shot a cow in the face multiple times before the animal was killed, violating the Code of Federal Regulations.
Multiple attempts to reach Ward Willard & Son for comment were unsuccessful.
District Attorney Gary M. Pasqua received an email from the animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) calling for “review (of) the matter and, as appropriate, file criminal cruelty-to-animals charges against the slaughter facility and the workers responsible for shooting animals in the head multiple times, over the course of up to 20 minutes, in botched stunning attempts.”
“At this point I am going to refer it to either the Sheriff’s Office or the state police and work in conjunction with them to see it there’s anything criminal in nature,” Mr. Pasqua said. “We’ll take the information they provided us and we’ll treat it like any other investigation that we do and see if there is anything there that we can prosecute or it’s appropriate to prosecute.”
According to the Aug. 9 notice of suspension issued to the slaughterhouse by the USDA, at about 8:15 a.m. that day, as witnessed by a Inspection Program Personnel for the Slaughter Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point, “a steer was in the knock box and the plant employee used a .22 magnum rifle to make the first stun attempt. The steer was still standing and bleeding from the head. There was a significant pause before the plant made a second attempt with the .22 mag rifle. The animal remained standing after the second shot. There was another lengthy pause while the plant needed to retrieve the back-up … .30-30 rifle. The shot with the .30-30 rendered the animal unconscious. It was approximately 15-20 minutes from the time of the first shot until the animal was finally rendered unconscious.
Regulations 9 Code of Federal Regulations Parts 313.16 require that the firearms shall be employed in the delivery of a bullet or projectile into the animal in accordance with this section so as to produce immediate unconsciousness in the animal by a single shot before it is shackled, hoisted, thrown, cast, or cut. The animal shall be shot in such a manner that they will be rendered unconscious with a minimum of excitement and discomfort.
Ward Willard & Son was issued an Aug. 30 Notice of Reinstatement of Suspension by the USDA again after an, Inspection Program Personnel for the Slaughter Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point reported that at 7:49 a.m. that morning a cow was moved to the knock box where a plant employee was using a 30/30 caliber rifle to make the first stun attempt, with a second shot heard at 7:51 a.m.
“There was another pause, at which time the door to the kill floor opened and an employee left the slaughter floor to get more ammunition out of the desk,” according to the suspension reinstatement. “It was at this point that inspection personnel … observed that the cow was still standing with blood coming from [the] facial region. The employee then returned with the ammunition and a third shot was heard at 0753 at which point the cow was rendered unconscious.”
In both instances, the USDA reported that Ward Willard & Son operates under a Robust Systematic Approach but were not fully implementing it by not having the back-up device handy nor training the person stunning the animal, who was a new employee to the slaughter floor with minimal experience.
Under the state Department of Agriculture and Markets law, the allegations could lead to a class E felony of aggravated cruelty to animals.
“Typically we see that more with companion animals, pets, things like that,” Mr. Pasqua said. “This is the first time I’ve had anything referred to me involving a slaughterhouse.”