For Immediate Release:
October 26, 2022
Nicole Meyer 202-483-7382
Winchester, Va. – PETA has obtained recent U.S. Department of Agriculture reports revealing two violations of law at Gentle Harvest outside Winchester, Virginia, in which a pig and a cow remained conscious after being shot in the head. In response, the group sent a letter today to Frederick County Commonwealth’s Attorney Ross Spicer calling on him to investigate and file appropriate criminal charges against those responsible.
According to the reports, on October 7 a worker shot a pig in the head with a rifle but the animal remained standing and crying out. The worker then shot the animal again before the plant manager supplied a shotgun, which was used to shoot the pig two more times. On April 15, a cow also remained standing after a worker shot her in the head.
“Despite this slaughterhouse’s name, these reports document slow and agonizing deaths that were anything but gentle,” says PETA Vice President of Evidence Analysis Daniel Paden. “PETA is calling for an investigation on behalf of these animals and is urging everyone to help prevent more animals from suffering in slaughterhouses by going vegan.”
PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to eat” and which opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview—points out that pigs, cows, sheep, chickens, and other animals feel pain and fear and value their lives, just as humans do. The group is pursuing charges under state law because federal officials haven’t prosecuted any inspected slaughterhouses for acts of abuse since at least 2007.
For more information on PETA’s investigative newsgathering and reporting, visit PETA.org or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.
PETA’s letter to Spicer follows.
October 26, 2022
The Honorable Ross Spicer
Frederick County Commonwealth’s Attorney
Dear Mr. Spicer:
I hope this letter finds you well. I would like to request that your office (and the proper local law-enforcement agency, as you deem appropriate) investigate and file suitable criminal charges against the workers responsible for repeatedly shooting conscious animals in the head on two recent occasions at the Gentle Harvest slaughterhouse located at 468 White Hall Rd. outside Winchester. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) documented the incidents in the attached reports, which state the following:
- October 7: “[A] sow was loaded into the knock box and an employee attempted to stun the sow using a .22 Magnum rifle. The stun attempt was unsuccessful as evidenced by the sow remaining standing and vocalizing briefly. The employee immediately applied a second stun attempt using the same .22 magnum rifle, but the sow remained standing in the knock box. The employee called for the Plant Manager, who was in a room adjacent to the kill floor, and requested assistance. The Plant Manager retrieved a .410 shotgun from a gun cabinet and brought it to the employee. The employee then shot the sow using the .410 shotgun, but the sow remained standing and vocalizing slightly. The employee then applied an immediate 2nd shot using the .410 shotgun (4th overall stun attempt), which rendered the sow unconscious.”
- April 15: “While stunning a beef (Steer) with a Jarvis Product Corp .25S caliber captive stun bolt in the knock box area, the establishment had a Mis-stun. On the first shot, the animal jerked [his] head to the side and the employee didn’t make an effective stun. The establishment immediately placed an effective second shot to the animal rendering [him] unconscious.”
This conduct appears to violate Va. Code § 3.2-6570. Importantly, FSIS’ action carries no criminal or civil penalties and does not preempt criminal liability under state law for slaughterhouse workers who perpetrate acts of cruelty to animals. Given that the FSIS hasn’t initiated a criminal prosecution of a licensed slaughterhouse for inhumane handling since at least 2007, charges under state law are these victims’ only chance at a measure of justice.
Please let us know what we might do to assist you. Thank you for your consideration and for the difficult work that you do.
Investigations Project Manager
FSIS District 80 Manager Todd Furey, Notice of Suspension, Gentle Harvest (October 7, 2022) https://www.fsis.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media_file/documents/M34103-NOS-10072022.pdf. Last accessed October 21, 2022.
FSIS, Noncompliance Record, Gentle Harvest (April 15, 2022), https://www.peta.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/10/2022-04-15-noncompliance-record.pdf.
See Nat’l. Meat Assoc. v. Harris, 132 S. Ct. 965, 974 n.10 (2012) (“States may exact civil or criminal penalties for animal cruelty or other conduct that also violates the [Federal Meat
Inspection Act (FMIA)]. See [21 U.S.C.] §678; cf. Bates v. Dow Agrosciences, LLC, 544 U.S. 431, 447 (2005), holding that a preemption clause barring state laws ‘in addition to or different’ from a federal Act does not interfere with an ‘equivalent’ state provision. Although the FMIA preempts much state law involving slaughterhouses, it thus leaves some room for the States to regulate.”).