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In the last days of January, I got an email with an undercover video of cow torture in a beef plant. Probably some crazy PETA thing going around I figured. I ignored it. Not that cruelty to animals isn't a valid issue, but there are ALWAYS videos of animal abuse and they aren't news.

Then, I got a Washington Post article about the video in my inbox. This video WAS news! It was news for a few reasons. The cow torture was illegal and its result was sick animals getting into the food supply. AND - those particular sick cows were going to feed school children!

Now it was outrageous! On February 1, I posted a diary. The diary was mostly ignored. Well, we're still in primary season. I forgot about it.

On February 17, the company announced a recall. The largest one in U.S. history. The story hit the MSM. People at work started talking about it. During those two weeks, kids were eating that beef!

The Story in the MSM
As the story in the MSM goes, the plant in question was torturing "downer cows" to make them pass USDA inspection even though they were sick. Downer cows are cows too sick or weak to stand. They can have any number of things wrong with them - maybe even mad cow - but whatever it is, we'd rather NOT eat them.

So, issue #1 is that cows were tortured. That's bad. Issue #2 is that school children were fed sick cows in their lunches. That's really bad. And that's also good material for an MSM news story! Plus, it's on video for all the world to see. In the world of the MSM, this is probably the food equivalent of the Starr report!

The Other Half of the Story
In late January, that was the whole story. But now it's almost March. Why did it take two weeks to recall the beef? And how much of that beef did kids eat during those two weeks? That's what I want to know.

Did you know that the federal government cannot order a meat recall? They can pressure a company to recall meat and - in extreme situations - they can remove their inspectors from meatpacking plants, thus shutting down the plants. But all meat recalls are VOLUNTARY.

Here's what Secretary of Ag Ed Schafer had to say on February 15:

Today, the San Bernardino District Attorney filed felony animal cruelty charges against two employees who were terminated by Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company.

It is regrettable that these animals were mistreated and I am encouraged and supportive of these actions by the San Bernardino District Attorney in response to this mistreatment.

Since Jan. 30, when USDA learned of allegations made regarding inhumane handling of non-ambulatory disabled cattle at Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company, the Department has taken many aggressive steps.

To date, Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company remains suspended by the Food Safety and Inspection Service and is not operating at this time. We continue to conduct a thorough investigation into whether any violations of food safety or additional humane handling regulations have occurred. On Feb. 8, our Office of the Inspector General took the lead on the investigation. At that time, USDA extended the administrative hold on Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Company products for the National School Lunch Program, the Emergency Food Assistance Program and the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations while the investigation continues.

I remain quite confident in the safety of the food supply. USDA will continue to take appropriate action based on the findings of the investigation.

What does all that mean exactly? Sounds to me like the USDA took its inspectors out and shut down the plant. Two people got in trouble - a pen manager and one of his employees. The Lynndie Englands of the plant. What about the execs?

Two days later, on February 17, another press release showed up on the USDA site - this time announcing a recall. The plant is recalling 143 million pounds of beef dating back two years (to February 1, 2006). Of that, 37 million pounds went to school lunches. How much of that beef do you think has not been eaten yet?

Let's not just use this opportunity to watch the horrible torture videos and gag at the thought of eating tainted beef. Why don't we amend the laws to give the government more power in adequately regulating our food supply? Why don't we go after those in charge of this plant, who had the responsibility to ensure its operations were legal? Let's send a message to the management of all plants that they must not turn a blind eye if illegal actions take place under their management!

Of course that won't happen. The USDA is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the beef industry. Don't mind me. It was just a suggestion.

Originally posted to OrangeClouds115 on Sun Feb 24, 2008 at 12:31 PM PST.

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