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UNR slaughterhouse cited by USDA for inhumane handling

By ThisIsReno

by Dana Gentry, Nevada Current

Workers at Wolf Pack Meats, the University of Nevada, Reno’s slaughterhouse, repeatedly violated humane handling practices during two March inspections, according to reports from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, by beating cattle and shooting a lamb in the back of the head, which failed to render the animal unconscious. The report also says a worker shot a cow in the head with three other steers crowded into the stun box, a violation of humane handling practices.  

A report of the lamb incident from March 15 says the inspector “heard one gun shot from the knock box, then a second shot followed by a loud yell. I immediately walked to the knock box. I saw 5 lambs in the right front corner of the enclosure and one lamb in the center that was in sternal recumbency with its forelimb-hooves tucked between its hindlimbs, and its head and neck rested over its forelimbs. Its eyes were open, constricted, it had a palpebral reflex, but not vocalizing or attempting to stand up.”

The employee told the inspector the first shot “was a misfire and did not penetrate the animal and that the second shot I heard entered the back of the lamb’s head.”

The lamb’s “head dropped to the floor” after it was shot a third time. 

Federal regulations say shooting should “produce immediate unconsciousness in the animal by a single shot before it is shackled, hoisted, thrown, cast, or cut. The animal shall be shot in such a manner that they will be rendered unconscious with a minimum of excitement and discomfort.” 

On March 10, an inspector reported seeing three steers and one heifer “all herded into the cattle knock box,” and observed “all four of the animals were lifting their legs up and down and bobbing their heads side to side to attempt to fit into such a tight space.”

The inspector told the employee only one animal should be in the box at a time. “He proceeded to stun the heifer using a shotgun while the remaining 3 cattle stood in the knock box behind the one that had been stunned.”

Also on March 10, the inspector observed an employee “attempting to drive 2 heifers and 1 steer into the stunning area. These cattle were approximately 600 lbs each. As the livestock refused to walk into the knock box, the employee became frustrated and soon began to strike a red plastic sorting board directly on the hips of the animals, when that didn’t work, he switched to the rattle paddle (a paddle used to sort and divide cattle) and began to use it on the rump of the heifers, and on the forehead of the heifers.”

The inspector informed the employee “the paddle is not to be used excessively and it should not be used to hit the animals directly over their head,” the report says.

A spokesman for UNR said in a statement that Wolf Pack Meats implemented a plan for corrective action that included “retraining with senior employees and verification of improved performance. The University of Nevada, Reno takes animal welfare very seriously and maintains AAALAC accreditation at all of its facilities, which is the gold standard accreditation for animal welfare.”

“Will you please publicly live stream video from all areas of your facility where live animals are handled?” asked People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in a letter to slaughterhouse operations manager Tom Kulas. “Workers might take their duty to handle animals lawfully more seriously if they knew caring people were watching.”

Wolf Pack Meats offers consumers “high quality, fresh, and local” meats, according to the UNR website. It also delivers meat weekly to Wolf Pack Provisions, the UNR food pantry for students.

Gov. Steve Sisolak declined to comment. 

In 2019, the Current reported the USDA cited the slaughterhouse when a worker shot a cow three times in an effort to stun it. 

Note: This story was updated with comment from UNR.

Nevada Current is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nevada Current maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Hugh Jackson for questions: [email protected]. Follow Nevada Current on Facebook and Twitter.

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