Practical Issues > Factory Farming > Cows

Downed Animals

People not in our movement generally think I am pretty radical since I don't drink milk. After all, it's not like cows are killed for their milk, right? At AR2001 I learned to inform those incredulous inquirers that eighty percent of hamburger meat comes from dairy cows.

Thanks to a terrific piece that aired on "CNN Sunday," January 27, millions more Americans than I get a chance to chat with have now been disabused of the notion that dairy cows are pampered animals who finish their idyllic lives in bovine retirement villages. In this story about Farm Sanctuary's downed animal lawsuit, they have also learned about the horrendous cruelty of the beef industry and the danger some practices pose to human health.

The piece opened with anchor Catherine Calloway telling us, "One group has filed a lawsuit against the USDA alleging that some animals allowed to enter the food chain are diseased, and that the government knows it and still allows it."

We are warned that we are about to see footage that we might find disturbing. On a major network - how wonderful!

Reporter Thelma Gutierrez opens her story:
    "The hills of Southern California, where you will find some of the largest dairy farms in the country. What you may not know is when these milk cows gets old or injured, they aren't put to pasture, they're sent to slaughter -- for beef."

We see video footage of sick animals that have been separated from the herd, then undercover video from Farm Sanctuary, of animals too sick or injured to walk being dragged to slaughter. Farm Sanctuary's Gene Bauston says:
    "Animals with frightening diseases are being approved for human food, and the USDA knows this... I think consumers would be appalled to learn that animals that are too sick to walk are routinely entering the food supply."

Bob Feenstra from the California Milk Producers Council says that sickly animals that have been ill or drugged do not get into the meat supply.  He also says that Farm Sanctuary is against the handling and transport of injured animals. Calloway tells us that Farm Sanctuary does not deny their opposition to the practice. We hear from Farm Sanctuary attorney Sheldon Eisenberg:
    "Farm Sanctuary's central concern here is the fact that the process of slaughtering downed animals truly involves acts of terrible cruelty."

Feenstra's response: "We have to handle it as an industry and as a business, and we do it as humanely as we can. We don't run petting farms."

We are introduced to a dairyman, Syp, who has 3,000 cows that he says are his whole life. Gutierrez tells us:
    "It's been a good life. Syp's cows produce $500,000 a month in milk alone. When his cows stop producing, he sends them to slaughter."

I am so thrilled that the public heard that message twice in one story.

The Dairyman says that indeed downed animals go to slaughter but that only those injured, not those that are ill, are processed for food.

Gutierrez comments:
    "But according to USDA inspection records obtained by Farm Sanctuary through the Freedom of Information Act, downed animals from other dairy farms have passed inspection with diseases like malignant lymphoma, pneumonia and hepatitis."

We hear that USDA officials declined on camera interviews on this issue but told CNN, in a written report, that diseased meat is prohibited for human consumption. But Gutierrez reads part of a USDA document obtained by CNN:

"Federal inspection regulations clearly provide for the slaughter and processing of diseased animals for human food, and the diseased part can be removed to make a wholesome product."

DR. Laurene Mascola,  a LA CO. "Public Health Expert" says of eating downed animals, "They are not at risk to give disease that we know of." Then she repeats, "that we know of."

Gutierrez signs off with a paraphrase from the dairy farmer, Syp. She says, "There is no way to know if you're eating meat from downed animals. Syp says USDA-inspected meat is healthy, and we shouldn't worry. As for his animals, he says he respects them. After all, his livelihood rests on their backs."

Hopefully many viewers could get the irony, the conflict of interest, apparent in that last comment.

Given the many millions of adverting dollars spent annually by the various aspects of the food production industry, I am always thrilled but surprised when a station is willing to cover a story like this and show viewers upsetting footage. Please thank CNN for this coverage.

CNN takes feedback at:

Select "CNN Sunday" from the pull-down menu of programs and when the appropriate box comes us, enter 1/27/01 as the air date.

I respectfully ask those activists who write great sample letters to refrain from attaching them when forwarding DawnWatch alerts. Any activist is capable of composing his or her own one line heartfelt thank you for a great piece. That's all that is needed and every single note helps a lot!

Yours and the animals',
Karen Dawn

Fair Use Notice and Disclaimer
Send questions or comments about this web site to Ann Berlin,