This week, USDA suspended Westland Meat Co., of Chino, CA, as a supplier to the National School Lunch program because of animal abuse issues at a Hallmark Meat Packing Company, which is a supplier to Westland.

This abuse was filmed and put on their website by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). It may be tempting for cattlemen to instinctively disregard this latest incident, as an HSUS member was working undercover at the plant. HSUS's reputation for distortion and its commitment to ending animal agriculture is well known. However, the videotapes certainly show inhumane treatment, the electrical prodding of downer cattle, spraying them with water and even ramming them with a forklift in an attempt to make the cattle stand up. The industry has long ago prohibited the use of downer (non-ambulatory cattle), and these types of incidents continue to harm the industry on a multitude of fronts.

Newly confirmed Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer called for an investigation, and USDA indefinitely suspended the company. Westland Meat Co. was the second-largest supplier of meat to the National School Lunch Program, and so the financial consequences have been dramatic. Westland responded by firing the two workers who were filmed and suspended the supervisor.

Everyone realizes these incidents are devastating and exceedingly rare, but we simply cannot afford to have them. HSUS has surpassed PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) in its effectiveness of attacking the livestock industry. They consistently have shown that they will stop at very little in their efforts to eliminate animal agriculture, and we simply cannot afford to give them legitimate avenues to attack us. Two rogue employees in a small packing plant in California have cost the industry millions of dollars of good will, and this time we have ourselves to blame.