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Activists Call for Criminal Charges against Vt Slaughterhouse

Posted on Feb 26, 2010 - 1:02 PM
Activists call for criminal charges against Vt. slaughterhouse
Montpelier, Vermont - February 24, 2010

It's been more than four months since the USDA and Vermont agriculture officials closed the Bushway Slaughter Facility in Grand Isle for alleged animal cruelty, but there are still more questions than answers.

The plant remains closed, but the operators of the facility have not been charged with any crime, despite undercover video that shows animals at the plant being shocked, kicked, dragged, and even skinned alive.

"It was horrific and I've heard from very skilled animal investigators that this is the worst video they have ever seen," said Deborah Loring of the group Justice for the Calves.

Animal rights activists Wednesday presented more than 1,200 signatures to the Vermont attorney general's office, asking that plant management and owners face the maximum charge for aggravated animal cruelty which carries a $5,000 fine and three years in jail.

"I hope the state does not wait for the federal government to take action," said Joanne Bourbeau of the Humane Society of the United States. "There are state charges here they could pursue and we're hopeful they will."

"We are certainly exploring the potential for state criminal charges," said Cindy Maguire of the Vt. attorney general's office.

There has been a partial change of ownership at the plant and Bushway's attorney tells WCAX News the new owners are hopeful the facility will reopen with the next couple of weeks, pending approval from the USDA. The owners have submitted a plan that calls for improvements; everything from more water bowls for the animals to the elimination of electric prods.

But animal rights activists say that's not enough, arguing that this case proves the entire slaughter and meat inspection process needs a facelift.

"There needs to be better communication between the state and the federal government and there needs to be mandated training of everyone from those on the slaughter floor to managers and supervisors and that does not exist right now," Bourbeau said.

Representatives from the Vt. attorney general's office will meet with federal authorities next week to determine how to pursue the case.

Keagan Harsha - WCAX News

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