While the Humane Society of the United States has gotten a lot of mileage out of what's now known as the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co. animal handling video, this week's reception with Congress was a bit more critical.
On Tuesday, congressmen repeatedly asked Michael Greger, HSUS' director of public health and animal agriculture, why HSUS didn't immediately inform USDA that it had video showing Hallmark/Westland workers mishandling downed cattle. The questioning took place at a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on food safety.
Greger's response was that the San Bernardino District Attorney's office asked HSUS to hold the information until it completed its own investigation. The congressmen overall, didn't embrace that statement, indicating that HSUS could have approached USDA quietly and much earlier in the process.
The logical conclusion, however, is that HSUS wanted to exploit the video and the worker's actions to it's fullest potential. In the end, HSUS' efforts are not about enhancing animals' care and well-being and finding solutions; it's about shutting down food-animal production.
Greger's response also suggests that HSUS has other similar efforts underway, telling the committee that the videographer's identity must be protected so as not to compromise current and future investigations.
Hallmark/Westland President Steve Mendell declined requests to testify, and the committee isn't ready to take "no" for an answer. In question is whether the plant workers' supervisors pressured them to get downed cows up and into slaughter.
Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), chaired the subcommittee, which is considering whether to re-ignite efforts to create a single food agency, establish mandatory recall authority for USDA and the Food and Drug Administration, ban all meat from downed cattle from the food supply and set mandatory traceability standards.
Interestingly, Seattle attorney, William Marler, who represents foodborne illness victims, testified that USDA may have pushed things too far. "Although stunned by the video … I'm more stunned that the recall has ballooned to 143 million pounds of meat and is quickly encompassing products that might contain trace amounts of the meat. No people have been sickened. I wonder if resources are better spent elsewhere," he told the committee.
Another interesting, and somewhat surprising day on Capital Hill. There will be many more to come related to this topic.