Header graphic for print

Food Safety News

Breaking news for everyone's consumption

Slaughter Plant Closes After HSUS Video Prompts USDA Inspectors to Leave

A New Jersey company involved in the veal and lamb business for more than 65 years was forced to shut down last Friday when USDA inspectors left the building because of alleged inhumane practices going on inside.

At least two egregious violations of federal humane handling requirements documented on a video obtained by the Humane Society of the United States (HBUS) were enough for USDA to shut down the Catelli Brothers, Inc., veal slaughter plant in Shrewsbury, NJ.

In another in a series of undercover investigations, the HSUS video depicts unconscious but living calves, one disabled and being dragged and another one on a faulty “kill” line.

Catelli Brothers, headquartered in Collingswood, NJ, outside Philadelphia, is one of the largest veal and lamb producers in the country. After being provided with a video copy and a complaint from HSUS, USDA opted to suspend the company’s operations by removing all federal meat inspectors from the slaughterhouse.

HSUS praised USDA’s action in a statement issued Monday.

“Downed calves are still suffering the sort of appalling abuses that we exposed in 2009 at another calf slaughter plant in Vermont,” said Wayne Pacelle, HSUS president and CEO. “We commend USDA for taking action to shut down the operation at Catelli Brothers, but it’s long past time to close the loophole in the downed animal rule that perpetuates continuing cruelty to young calves.”

Tony Catelli, CEO and president of the NJ company, said animal abuse of any kind is “unacceptable,” and that company policy strictly prohibits processing of any downed calves. He said the company has hired a humane handling expert and will cooperative with investigators.

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service said the length of the suspension would depend upon how quickly the company responds to the abuses depicted in the video. Catelli Brothers will have to document what went wrong and how it came about and specific actions it will take to make sure the abuses do not happen in the future.

The gruesome video shows one calf, bleeding from having its neck slit, still remains conscious while being shot several times with a stun gun that is supposed to humanely kill with one shot. A “downer” calf that cannot walk is shown being dragged.

Such instances appear to be clear violations of USDA’s rules for humane slaughter of animals for human consumptions.

Bernie Rollin, distinguished professor of animal science at Colorado State University, wrote after watching the video at HSUS’s request, that “of all the atrocity videos I have viewed, the current video of the slaughterhouse at Catelli Brothers must be ranked among the three worst.” He called for the plant to be “closed down immediately.”

In addition to serving domestic markets, Catelli Brothers is approved for export to several foreign counties, according to USDA records. It employs about 250 people.

© Food Safety News
  • Elaine Summerhill

    You neglect to give references or credentials for Bernard Rollin.

    Bernard E. Rollin is an American philosopher, currently professor of philosophy, animal sciences, and biomedical sciences at Colorado State University. He specializes in animal rights and the philosophy of consciousness, and is the author of a number of influential books in the field, including Animal Rights and Human Morality (1981), The Unheeded Cry: Animal Consciousness, Animal Pain and Scientific Change (1988), Farm Animal Welfare (1995), and Science and Ethics (2006). He is also co-editor of the two-volume, The Experimental Animal in Biomedical Research (1989 and 1995). He published his memoir in 2011, Putting the Horse Before Descartes.

    If you are going to present someone as “distinguished” and as a source, you really need to give the full story. Mr. Rollin is NOT an unbiased source, as you would have some believe.

    • Liz

      By the way, I refused to watch this video. Words were bad enough.

    • Anonymous

      Of course there is a bias as there should be, it’s called being humane and kind to the creatures that we are going to eat

    • Letty Grayson

      Then it seems that mr. Rollin is not an unbiased source but rather an expert source — do you want the author to cite a source that recognizes no compassion or empathy for other living creatures?

  • BB

    Why didn’t the in-plant USDA inspectors shut them down first???Why did it take the HSUS showing the USDA a video????? I doubt this was the first time an inhumane slaughter action had ever occurred at that plant.

    • Nancy Hall

      It’s unlikely that the abuses took place with USDA agents present.

    • joe-d

      Exactly! Why does it always take an undercover employee to get action.

  • flameforjustice

    The bottom line is the video shows the calves were treated inhumanely regardless of any one’s credentials. I would say cruel and tortured instead of inhumane to make sure even the most naïve person got the point. What animal flesh eating consumers fail to realize is that all sorts of chemicals/hormones in the animals body is released to them being traumatized from this cruelty and the animal flesh you eat from those tortured animals is in the meat you eat and effects your body negatively as well. Maybe then some of you animal flesh eaters will have more compassion because it effects your body believe it or not.

  • Mastema Jabberwocky

    no reason for mistreatment and its sick that we are such disgusting consumers that we need be these disgusting murders, mangling, torturous, imprisoners we have become WE SHOULD ALL BE ASHAMED

  • Barb3000

    These same USDA inspectors have seen this happen all the time and they have done nothing about it. Its the same type of ignoring the cruelty that was done at the horse slaughter plants before they were closed down in the US. There are hundreds of pages of clear photos of horses being found dead in the transport trucks and cruel photos of horses still alive when they were hung up by a hind leg to be bled out. Why did it take a undercover video after all this time to expose this cruelty??? Why didn’t the inspectors file complaints about what they saw on a daily basis?? Because the USDA really does not care about stopping the cruelty that’s why, they have known it has always went on and they look the other way.

    • BB

      I take offense to your blanket statement that USDA inspectors don’t care about humane treatment of animals. You clearly have no idea of what you are talking about. I’ve been a USDA inspector for 9 years and have worked in red meat slaughter plants in the past. I have even suspended a plant for inhumane treatment. And in regards to “tallen2007″…..I can only speak for myself, but when I suspended the plant, I was not scared of losing my job- I had full support from my supervisor and district office.
      I didn’t watch the video. Maybe it was the 1st time, maybe it was an ongoing issue. If it was ongoing, then the USDA inspectors should have been aware if they were doing their job.
      In large slaughterhouses, USDA inspectors are not back there 24/7. We do go back there to verify humane handling and perform ante-mortem inspection, but again-we are not out there 24/7. I’m not gonna say an inspector has never “looked the other way,” but I know I never would, and all of the inspectors I know are the same way. Maybe some inspectors in other circuits don’t have support from management, but I have never found that to be the case. I no longer inspect the slaughterhouses, but trust me………USDA inspectors care about the humane treatment of animals.

      • Barb3000

        @BB,
        If that’s the case why did inspectors photograph the injured horses that would arrive at a US slaughter plant, write up a report but nothing was ever done to stop the cruelty?? This went on for years and I don’t believe one horse slaughter plant was ever shut down in all the years that they operated here. There are pages and pages of photos on google. The same thing goes on now in Canada/Mexico. But the inhumane killing of these animals goes on every day just like it did here.

      • James Smith

        I agree for the most part with your statement. I’m a 11 year employee of USDA and will say that most USDA inspectors and establishment employees/owners alike do a good job and care about the animals. Whos to say the inspectors weren’t doing their jobs, maybe he or she had just been in the area. The inspectors can’t control an employees actions/decisions when they are out of sight, we are regulators/educators not babysitters.

  • tallen2007

    See post above. The inspectors won’t have a job if they enforce the rules. Would you give up a $50-$80,000/yr job for a sick calf???

    • Jan Hoadley

      Inspectors employed by USDA are not employed by the slaughter company. Their JOB is to enforce rules. They did not. So the slaughter company is shut down (as they should be) and those violating rules are moved to another facility. Not acceptable. They aren’t doing their jobs. Moving to another facility allows it to continue. Fire the inspectors, or transfer to other jobs, and these things will not keep getting swept under the rug. Would I report it? Absofreakinglutely if that was my job to watch for it. They can shut down the line. They should have. Small processors must follow the rules as well as Tysons or Smithfields. Allowing things like this to happen in medium sized ones hurts everyone. It hurts the farmers, the calves, the employees. It’s unacceptable. The place is shut down but not penalizing those who could have ended it – seems they lose their job then for doing their job or not doing their job.

    • Meat Man

      Tallen2007 you must be a USDA/FSIS inspector because you speak the truth. If inspectors are too hard on plants they will find themselves the target of investigations so its likely that some inspectors, not saying these at this plant just ignore issues or are on a buddy-buddy friendship with the plant managers. You can’t say that doesn’t happen. Saying some USDA inspectors aren’t on the companys xxxx is like saying some Border Patrol agents aren’t on the drug cartels payroll, we know it happens.

  • Jay McKillop

    HOW can this still be happening? Have we not evolved somewhat as humans?

  • guest

    Do you know that ‘nice’ wool socks involves gross cruelty to sheep, do you know about mulesing? Sheep have their backsides hacked off and are left with exposed bloody skin, ‘Life saving’ medication from animal testing? Give me a break, do you know the statistics of fatalities, maiming and serious side effects and hasty drug withdrawals and the industries hiding serious side effects from the public? it doesnt take much research into the subject to change your mind about how they are developing ‘life saving’ medicines, you can see the flagrant corruption of the multi billion industry, in fact, animal tests have and continue to hinder real medical progress and a lot of medicines have been found accidentally, animals are biologically, physiologically and anatomically different to humans and we have human relevant testing methods already available which are obviously superior which we are, albeit slowly, moving towards, animals dont belong in circuses, they are cruel places for them, have you seen the ‘training’ tools and the way they ‘train; the animals? horse racing is also cruel, horses are frequently injured and then shot at the track or are raced to death and then these magnificent animals can be slaughtered whilst still very young for dog meat and glue or abandoned and left to starve when they are no longer winners and earning them money, no loyalty to these horses exists, animals are skinned alive for ‘fur’ and you are conding that disgusting treatment? It’s the list of abuses to animals that goes on and on and it must all be stopped and people like you aren’t helping. And you are also wrong about public view because people are becoming increasingly aware of all the cruelties done to animals thanks to HSUS and other caring animals organisations, and thank goodness for them and their brilliant work!

  • Greddae

    Beltex Corporation in Texas. The inspection reports are horrible.. and I too am very surprised this was allowed to happen. You can view the inspection reports at http://www.animalsangels.org/issues/horse-slaughter/foia-requests/violations-documented-beltex-horse-slaughter-plant-texas

  • Gwen

    Blast this putrid company with emails, I sent them one yesterday. No way they did not know what was happening in their own house of horrors! They have been caught and are now in damage control. Even the disgusting truckies were being cruel to the animals! Those that picked them up and transported them to this hell hole!