By: Lynn Swearingen Copyright 2009 All rights reserved

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1294-1243165924DoRjThe inspection schedule in Vermont is not publicly known, however information provided shows that at least 3 times in the past 6 months Bushway was shut down for one day due to non-compliance. Not for a burned out light bulb in the loo, but for “mistreating animals”.

Conflicting information is provided through various sources on the inspection authority. Vermont ‘s website shows that Bushway is a State Inspected facility. yet the Burlington Free Press quotes Diane Bothfeld, deputy secretary of the Vermont state Agriculture, Food & Markets Agency as follows:

“Bothfeld said the state did not know about those citations until Friday, when the U.S. Agriculture Department divulged them in a letter to the state outlining its response to the society’s investigation. Bothfeld said the reason the state did not know about the previous citations was because federal inspectors are not required to disclose such information to the state. The federal government oversaw inspections at the Bushway plant because the meat it was processing was being sold in other states as well as Vermont.”

Which is it – USDA or State Inspections?

The Humane Society (not the local shelter mind you the REAL Humane Society HSUS has expressed its discomfort over the practices and admittedly provided the video which ultimately has closed Bushway for the time being. A disturbing point to consider is the following statement from the Humane Society in reference to the Bushway incident:

“The Humane Society said it would propose tighter rules for the meatpacking and related industries, including a requirement that male calves born on dairy farms be kept there until they are 10 days old to ensure they are strong enough to travel.”

 So would it then be acceptable to HSUS for a 10 day old calf to travel to Bushway and walk to it’s own fate of being skinned alive?

Let us suppose the HSUS is an Industry as as so aptly described in the following article from ActivistCash:

HSUS is big, rich, and powerful, a humane society in name only. And while most local animal shelters are under-funded and unsung, HSUS has accumulated $113 million in assets and built a recognizable brand by capitalizing on the confusion its very name provokes. This misdirection results in an irony of which most animal lovers are unaware: HSUS raises enough money to finance animal shelters in every single state, with money to spare, yet it doesn’t operate a single one anywhere.”

“In addition to the HSUS flagship offices in Maryland and DC, the organization’s global network includes control over the following legal corporations (this list is evolving as new information becomes available):”

The list contains 56 non-profits of assorted affiliations. When one considers the fact that the last reported Net Assets for HSUS was in excess of $204 million dollars (up $84 million dollars from ActivistCash’s reporting in 2006) perhaps one should question what exactly HSUS is going to gain from the Public release of the video?

Which is it – Humane Protectionism or Cash Cow?

What about the Organic Industry – and don’t be fooled it is exactly that – an Industry. Tack on the words “Organic” or “Sustainable” and one can raise the price of end products. Somewhere in the “Farm to Fork” theory the “Slaughter to Supper” aspect is largely ignored. Take for example the following quote:

“Some in the Vermont dairy industry said they worried the revelations would give an enterprise generally viewed as wholesome a black eye. Bushway Packing was certified as an organic processor, raising extra concern in that sector.

“That’s not right, that’s really nasty,” said Paul Stecker, an organic dairy farmer from Cabot, after watching the video on the Humane Society’s Web site. “I wouldn’t be in this business if that’s the way it was. That’s not the norm, I can tell you that.”

Stecker said the slaughterhouse’s problems also would bring attention to an aspect of dairying most farmers don’t like or talk about much: The vast majority of male calves born on dairy farms face very short lives. “That kind of thing hurts us all, like our industry really needed that,” he said.”

Yes, I suppose it would hurt Mr. Stecker. Perhaps not as much as the process of being hauled across a feces splattered, blood coated concrete floor to have your hide removed while still conscious, but the wallet might just get a little thinner.

In August of 2008, Bushway began a revitalizing process. It was geographically just what Vermont Dairies needed. Not for the sake of the bob calves, but to reduce the overall cost of transportation from point A (variousDairy Farms) to point B (Bushway); besides, saving the wear and tear on the truck, Bushway was going to provide the option of taking animals that were too ill to travel long distances:

Another group of area businessmen is hoping to capitalize on the glut of young bob steer. “ John McCracken and Terry Rooney of St. Albans — a cattle dealer and nursery owner, respectively — are partnering with a slaughterhouse owner from New York to revitalize the old Bushway plant in Grand Isle. When it reopens, with USDA certification, it will be called Bushway Packing, Inc. Says Ed Jackson, “I fully expect before the busy season hits this fall they’ll be in operation. I’ve heard that it’s come along well and they’re doing a real nice job, so it’s probably worth waiting for.”

McCracken wanted to get into the biz to deal with his own shipping issues.

Every week, he rounds up 600 to 800 baby steer — 90 percent of them in Vermont — and sends them to Utica, New York, to be processed. “The profit on the calves is too slim,” he laments. “You’re only getting five or six dollars a calf, and there’s the wear and tear on the truck. It’s a tough business right now, with the price of fuel the way it is.”

“Another concern is that the young bob calves don’t always have their legs under them, and could fall and be injured on the long drive. The same goes for animals that have taken ill and need to be put down. Says McCracken, “We’re trying to make it easier for the farmer, too. If you have a cow that comes down with milk fever, they can’t stand that ride.”

“In addition to being the only bob-calf slaughtering gig in Vermont, Bushway’s will take animals that are ill. They’ll also offer custom meat processing for the DIY crowd.”

“Excess bob calves from Thistle Hill and Shelburne Farms go to Addison County Commission Sales, which auctions them off to the highest bidder. “I don’t know where they go from there,” Putnam remarks. Dixon guesses that 80 percent of his steers end up at ACCS. “Because we’re humane-certified,” he explains, “we wait until they’re five days old.”

Please read the above italics again – Bushway’s will take animals that are ill. To turn into food. For Consumers to eat?

One wonders how many of the hundreds of Annual Contributors to Shelburne farms realize that their In Loving Memory cash goes to cost saving measures that lead to the types of  “problems”  at Bushway during the past 6 months? Or what about the 50 some “Partners” – psst don’t look now NOFAvt is listed on page 18 along with such weighty groups such as SlowFoods, Vermont Department of Health, etc. Note the lack of photo ops with “bob calves” in the glossy 21 page report. Yet apparently kiddies on a tour can meet at 3 pm what one assumes would be a relative bovine calf (page 19).

The assumption is that calf would be older than 5 days – one wants to be “humane” after all.

Of course with the mega money making machine of HSUS wanting to extend the holding regulations, the possibility of sending the 5 day old calves off to ensure “humane raising standards” just might not be an option for Dairy Farm Manager Mr. Dixon. That additional 5 day wait might just cost more in capital from their $8 million operating budget. The reader again will have to make the assumption that NOFA (Northeast Organic Farming Association) will no longer be touting Bushway Packing for its “organic slaughter and processing through NOFA” now that they are closed down. One question becomes what is the connection between NOFA and the USDA through the CSA/Organic Program?

Which is it? Vermont home of the “pretty pictures” or of “graphically gutwrenching Video”

The operating practices at Bushway, or any of the other Regulated processing houses in Vermont, are not the core issue here. The issues are in the regulatory process and monetary rewards. In lieu of actually enforcing existing regulations, the USDA is actively seeking to impose new regulations through Food Safety Working Groups, new Legislation, or Traceability of all foods produced in the United States.

Secretary Vilsack of the USDA should be enforcing what is already on the books instead of requiring new costly procedures. No amount of Federal Register rigmarole is going to make a USDA employee NOT advise the floor workers of a processing facility about how to get around the other Inspector (see HSUS video). How about using the tax payer monies alloted to the USDA to actually inspect?

Mr. Allbee the Secretary of Agriculture in Vermont should be held accountable. Consumers in Vermont were falsely informed that Bushway was state inspected. No amount of public distancing can evade the fact that the Department of Agriculture was responsible for misleading Consumers via their official website.

Again – enforce existing regulations do not introduce new ones.

HSUS holds responsibility here as well. How many bob calves continued to be processed at the plant before HSUS had properly edited, consulted their public relations staff, made their lobbyists aware of the situation and then presented the video to the USDA? For what purpose was the appalling information held close for up to 40 days. Why not go straight to Mr. Allbee and immediately stop the situation?

Ultimately we all are responsible for our own actions. The charities that we contribute to, the standards we uphold in our food consumption and processing, and the accountability we expect, but not necessarily require, from society in general.