So my radar perked up when a press release from the Vermont Agency of Agriculture hit our inbox at the newspaper this morning. In a statement from Secretary Roger Allbee, the agency announced that the USDA and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture today suspended their licenses for operations at the Bushways Slaughterhouse facility in Grand Isle, Vt., due to alleged animal welfare violations. The allegations came from the Humane Society of the United States. Here's part of Allbee's announcement:
“USDA and the state have suspended the operation of the facility and are conducting an investigation. These allegations of inhumane handling and treatment of animals if verified, warrant prompt corrective actions to ensure they do not happen again.
“In addition, in accordance with agency animal health statutes, the Attorney General has been notified of possible criminal actions in regards to animal health and welfare.
“The agency finds the alleged animal welfare practices disturbing and states that there is no excuse for the inhumane treatment of animals. These practices are not representative of the industry as a whole in Vermont and such actions will not be tolerated in our state. The agency is taking every action within its power to address the situation.”
I didn't speak with anyone from Bushway's while reporting my articles, but the slaughterhouse processes a number of calves for veal from Vermont dairy farms. As far as I know, it was the only plant of its kind slaughtering these animals in the state.
Update, 4:10 p.m.: The HSUS has posted more information online about its undercover investigation at the Grand Isle slaughterhouse. The HSUS alleges that workers at the slaughterhouse abused calves, skinned one alive, repeatedly shocked calves who "seemed weak and unable to stand." You can read more over at the Humane Society's Web site, but be warned — many of the photos and video footage are graphic.