In-N-Out cuts ties with Central Calif. slaughterhouse

FRESNO, Calif.

The video is so disturbing that it forced one fast food giant to cut ties with the company Tuesday. It's a major supplier to the USDA's school lunch program.

Animal rights activists say they shot the video this summer at a company called Central Valley Meat Company in Hanford. It shows what are called "downer cows" barely able to walk, stunned and suffering.

Some cows are shot in the head with a bolt gun several times, but remain alive. One animal is suffocated by a worker who puts a boot over its nose and mouth.

"This is a horror for animals; there is no doubt that this facility is an absolute horror for animals," Compassion Over Killing spokesperson Erica Meier said.

The activist group Compassion Over Killing says the video is proof the slaughterhouse routinely mistreats animals.

"The abuses that we uncovered should concern people for the way in which these animals were treated but it also brings up food safety concerns and that is something that the American public wants to know about and they want to know where their food is coming from," Meier said. "This is a USDA-inspected facility."

Activists question why government inspectors routinely working at the plant sidn't catch the problems.

When they turned over the video, the USDA shut down the plant Monday and issued a statement saying, "Upon confirming several humane handling violations, Food Safety Inspection Service suspended operations at the facility and is prepared to take further action as warranted by the investigation."

Under federal law, sick cows are considered unfit for human consumption.

The question now -- does the meat supplied by the Central Valley Meat Company pose a public health risk?

One major retailer is not waiting for the answer. In-N-Out Burger got 20 percent of their beef from Central Valley Meat, but cut ties to the company Tuesday.

For its part, Central Valley Meat issued a statement saying they are disturbed the USDA shut them down "based upon a videotape that was provided to the department by a third party group."

But they're cooperating with investigators and say, "We are committed to correcting any problems identified on the video as quickly as we possibly can."

"It's unacceptable and it does bring concerns; it should send signals to the American public that there's something going on with our food supply that should raise flags," Meier said.

Central Valley Meat employees tell the ABC7 News I-Team they are not completely out of business right now. They aren't able to slaughter cows, but they are processing meat they already had in the cooler.

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