March 10, 2006

USDA finds misconduct by inspectors in kosher plant

By Christopher Doering

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. inspectors at one of the
nation's largest kosher slaughterhouses accepted meat products
as gifts and often were unaware that inhumane slaughter
practices were used, according to a U.S. Agriculture Department

The USDA's inspector general also said in the 15-page
report that 10 federal inspectors overseeing an Iowa plant
operated by AgriProcessors Inc. failed to properly inspect
cattle carcasses and report violations. The report was released
by animal-rights group PETA on Friday.

The inspector general completed the investigation last
April. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals obtained a
copy using the Freedom of Information Act and made it public.

Employees also were "engaged in other acts of misconduct,"
the investigation found.

Conditions at the plant were reported in November 2004 when
PETA released videotape showing cows being shocked in the face
with electric prods, tracheas being removed to increase
bleeding, and animals thrashing about and attempting to bellow.

The Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act says animals
cannot be dismembered until they are rendered insensible to
pain, usually through stunning, but exceptions are made for
so-called ritual slaughter. Jewish law does not permit stunning
and requires a swift, painless cut that produces as little
blood as possible.

AgriProcessors would often conduct a second cut, which no
longer kept the animal kosher because it increased bleeding.

USDA later discussed the situation with AgriProcessors
after which the company made changes to its operating
procedure. An investigation by USDA led to the suspension of
one employee for 14 days and warning letters to two other
inspectors. The U.S. attorney's office declined to prosecute.

"Every time anybody looks into whether USDA is enforcing
the Humane Slaughter Act, their conclusion is that the USDA
isn't," said Bruce Friedrich, a director of PETA.

"It's like having a speed limit with state troopers never
bothering to enforce it," he said.

A spokesman for AgriProcessors did not return calls seeking

The report also found plant managers frequently gave USDA
inspectors chicken, sausage, bacon and other meat products that
were cooked and sometimes eaten in the plant. Federal
inspectors were often found sleeping, playing computer games
and keeping their hands in their pockets instead of checking
for contaminated meat as required.