Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Downer cows make for killer burgers

Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. President Steve Mendell fessed up to using downer cows in his company’s Southern California slaughterhouse. Downer cattle are supposed to verboten due to fears of mad cow disease.

Of course, that was only after a Congressional committee confronted him with undercover video.

Mendell was under subpoena to appear before the House Energy and Commerce investigative subcommittee. Without a subpoena, he was a no-show last month, which carries an implication of guilt in my book right there.

And, what did he not want to talk about?

This imagery that should just want to make you rush out to buy fast food, or some hamburger at the grocery store NOT:

Mendell watched red-faced and grim, sometimes resting his head on his hand, as cows were dragged by chains, sprayed in the nostrils with water, shocked and harshly prodded with forklifts to get them into the box where they would be slaughtered.

Earlier, in written testimony, Mendell claimed no downers went through his slaughterhouse. He then admitted he was changing his testimony because he got caught red-handed. Meanwhile, his legal mouthpiece, a familiar old Republican flunky, tried to spin even that:
Asked about the discrepancy with his written testimony, Mendell said, “I had not seen what I saw here today.” He said that the Agriculture Department had not shared with him some of the undercover video shot by the Humane Society of the United States.

Stupak pointed out that the video has been available on the Humane Society website.

After Mendell’s testimony, his lawyer sought to clarify Mendell’s remarks. Asa Hutchinson, a former GOP congressman from Arkansas who once led the Drug Enforcement Administration, said Mendell would not dispute logical conclusions drawn by Stupak about downed cattle illegally entering the food supply.

“But it can’t be conclusive because he does not know all the facts of it, he hasn’t studied it and he only saw one brief shot at it during his testimony,” Hutchinson said.

More on the jump.

So, Mendell is trying to blame the USDA, and Hutchison is trying to claim Mendell doesn’t know what goes on in his own company. Typical Republican, just like our glorious CEO president.

If Mendell didn’t know about shit like this, literally, shit, from the feces that cling to downers, it’s because he didn’t want to. The company had a quota of 500 slaughters a day. As for his claim that his plant had good training, well, that might be true in theory, but if you’re running that many cows through, it’s not that way in reality.

And, given the fact Mendell was a no-show at the previous committee meeting, as I noted above, Hutchison knows that anybody with half a brain sees through the spin.

As for the “killer burgers” part of the head, it’s a legitimate fear:
Richard Raymond, Agriculture Department undersecretary for food safety, acknowledged “there is that remote possibility” that cases of mad cow could emerge years from now as a result of the Westland/Hallmark practices.

And, there may be more in the system:
Raymond also said that the Agriculture Department had found evidence of more than the two non-ambulatory cattle shown in videos Wednesday improperly entering the food supply. Even though carcasses also undergo inspection and can be discarded after slaughter, “it’s a reasonable statement to assume it did enter commerce, some of it,” Raymond said.

As for Mendell, he’s now worried about his own future. He claims he’s received death threats and people have told him they’re “praying for us to suffer and die like the cows.”

Well, you know, if we went by the “eye for an eye” idea, something like that would make a fitting punishment for Mendell, should he be criminally convicted of everything.

One hamburger a day, every day for the rest of his life, made of the recalled beef from his slaughterhouse. Given that it was the subject of the largest recall in history, I’m sure it would be no problem cooking him up a daily quarter-pounder, or even double quarter-pounder. And, no, that’s not totally tongue in cheek.