USDA shuts veal slaughter house after video shows abuse

The U.S. Department of Agriculture halted operations at a Vermont slaughter house after undercover video reveals shocking abuse of veal calves.

The video, shot by a Humane Society of the United States investigator, shows workers kicking downed calves, hitting the days-old animals with electric prods and shows a calves skinned alive.

After examining the video, the USDA closed the plant and said it would launch an investigation.

"The deplorable scenes recorded in the video released by the Humane Society of the United States are unequivocally unacceptable,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in a statement yesterday. “The callous behavior and attitudes displayed in the video clearly appear to be violations of USDA's humane handling regulations.”

Last year, the HSUS exposed the abuse of downed cows at a California slaughter plant, which led to a federal probe and the largest meat recall in U.S. history. There is now a new federal regulation banning the slaughter of downer cattle, but it left open a loophole for downer calves, reports HSUS president Wayne Pacelle in his blog.

Approximately, 700,000 veal calves are slaughtered in the U.S. each year. Arizona, California, Colorado, Maine and Michigan have passed laws phasing out the use of restrictive veal crate confinement systems, but still allow transport and slaughter of calves at any age.

To read more about the HSUS investigation click here.

Warning: the video below, shot by an undercover investigator working at the plant -Bushway Packing of Grand Isle - contains graphic images.