Criminal Charges Sought Against Wisconsin Meat Processor
February 15, 2023 – Today, two animal advocacy groups asked the Walworth County, Wisconsin District Attorney to file animal cruelty charges against an Elkhorn meat processor and its General Manager. In a letter filed today by national animal advocacy groups Animal Equality and Animal Partisan, the groups urged District Attorney Zeke Wiedenfeld to pursue criminal charges against Wilson Farm Meats and the company’s General Manager, Justin Corman, for abusing a steer while forcing him into restraint for slaughter. Wilson Farm Meats has been the subject of recent local accolades after winning numerous awards at the Wisconsin State Fair.
The animal advocacy group’s request stems from a March 9, 2022 incident at the company’s Elkhorn slaughterhouse that was observed and documented by a United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) inspector. The USDA inspector observed Corman shouting and cursing at a steer while twisting his tail to force him into the stunning restraint for slaughter. According to the USDA inspector, the steer was vocalizing loudly in pain with his tongue hanging out and his eyes bulging as Corman twisted the animal’s tail.
The inspector reported that Corman stopped the abuse when he noticed he was being watched, but when the inspector stepped away, they heard the animal vocalize again in pain and upon examination of the carcass, discovered the steer’s tail was bloody and broken. The USDA temporarily suspended operations at Wilson Farm Meats after the incident for violating federal law regarding the welfare of animals at slaughter.
The request for criminal charges comes just weeks after a Wisconsin university published a study highlighting the prevalence of tail twisting and broken tails. In the December 30, 2022 study, researchers from the University of Wisconsin–River Falls’ Department of Animal Food and Science found that a staggering 46% of cows at one dairy farm studied had broken tails. The study, published in the official journal of the American Dairy Science Association, noted that “[t]ail injuries can cause substantial pain and distress” and suggested further research into the welfare implications and prevention of broken tails.
The treatment of animals used for food is hidden behind the walls of slaughterhouses and only rarely comes to the public consciousness. But here, we have the words of a federal inspector who witnessed cruelty firsthand and explained in great detail how Wilson Farm Meats’ treats animals when no one is looking. The abuse of a helpless animal during his final moments before slaughter is unconscionable and demands criminal punishment.-Will Lowrey, Legal Counsel for Animal Partisan
In their letter, the animal advocacy groups assert that Wilson Farm Meats’ and Corman’s actions violated Wisconsin’s animal cruelty law which punishes anyone who causes unnecessary or excessive pain or injury to an animal. Violation of Wisconsin’s animal cruelty law carries penalties ranging from fines of up to $10,000 and/or incarceration ranging from nine months to three and a half years.
“Abusing an animal in order to ‘get the job done’ is unacceptable – and criminal,” said Sarah Hanneken, Legal Counsel for Animal Equality. Hanneken, who was born and raised in Wisconsin, praised the state’s no-nonsense laws on corporate liability, adding, “When an employee of a company – especially a high-level employee like Corman – commits a crime in the course of their job duties, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has said the company itself may be prosecuted. Wilson Farm Meats must be held accountable for the treatment of animals in its operations. That is the surest way to prevent animal cruelty in the future.”
1. Prime Choice: Elkhorn’s Wilson Farm Meats wins multiple State Fair awards, Lake Geneva Regional News, https://lakegenevanews.net/news/local/prime-choice-elkhorns-wilson-farm-meats-wins-multiple-state-fair-awards/article_3abee28e-279d-11ed-8654-fb7c2f1f306f.html (last visited Feb. 14, 2023).
2. Notice of Suspension: Wilson Farm Meats, United States Department of Agriculture, https://www.fsis.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media_file/2022-03/M34554-NOS-03092022.pdf (last visited Feb. 13, 2023).
3. Broken tails in Holstein dairy cattle: A cross-sectional study, JDS Communications, https://www.jdscommun.org/article/S2666-9102(22)00156-9/fulltext#%20 (last visited Feb. 14, 2023).
Interviews available upon request:
Animal Partisan, Legal Counsel
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ABOUT ANIMAL EQUALITY:
Animal Equality is an international organization working with society, governments, and companies to end cruelty to farmed animals. Animal Equality works effectively for animals through investigations, corporate campaigns and legal advocacy in the United States, UK, Germany, Italy, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, and India.
ABOUT ANIMAL PARTISAN:
Animal Partisan is a legal advocacy organization whose mission is to end the suffering of animals in slaughterhouses, farms, and laboratories by discovering, exposing, and challenging unlawful conduct in all its forms.
- Claire Roberson, Communications Manager
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