AYNOR, S.C. (WBTW) — An Aynor butcher suspended twice this year for botched animal slaughtering attempts had other violations while under suspension, according to documents from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Palmetto Fresh Meats was initially suspended on Feb. 17, which was moved to a suspension in abeyance on Feb. 24, according to a USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service quarterly report. It was suspended again on March 15, which was switched to another suspension in abeyance three days later. Each of the suspensions was categorized as inhumane treatment and slaughter of animals.
USDA inspectors are not at a business during a suspension until corrective action is taken, a USDA FSIS spokesperson told News13. During that time, a business is also banned from slaughtering animals. The suspension in abeyance, however, allows a business to continue slaughtering animals pending USDA verification that corrective actions have been made and preventative measures have been implemented.
The spokesperson said that enforcement actions were closed on June 21 “based on the determination that the establishment’s corrective actions and preventative measures were effective in ensuring regulatory compliance.”
After publication, Palmetto Fresh Foods told News13 that it has revamped its equipment since the violations, and that the issues are no longer a concern.
PETA has been watching Palmetto Fresh Foods since earlier this year when USDA documents showed that staff members shot a steer in the head and cut its throat, according to Colin Henstock, PETA’s assistant manager of investigations. The steer then stood up and gurgled.
Since then, PETA has obtained public documents outlining further violations.
Documents show that on Jan. 19, an USDA inspector saw an employee try to stun a hog. The first attempt was “ineffective,” and the hog remained conscious, standing and squealing/grunting. The second try was effective and in “the desired location.”
Later that day, another hog had to be stunned twice. The first try at stunning the animal wasn’t on the mark, according to the USDA, and staff members said it was because the hog had moved its head.
“It is the establishments [sic] responsibility to adequately restrain the animal,” the inspection documents read. “This establishment does not have a SYSTEMATIC APPROACH TO HUMANE HANDLING AND SLAUGHTER (SYSTEMATIC APPROACH) IN A WRITTEN ANIMAL HANDLING PROGRAM. It was determined that the event(s) was a discrete, rare failure to render livestock insensible (or unconscious) by a single stun and that the establishment promptly and effectively corrected the noncompliance(s).”
The owner was told to take steps to prevent it from happening again.
Under regulations, animals must be stunned before they are slaughtered. In the case of captive-bolt stunning, an animal receives a blow to its skull to make it immediately unconscious.
In February, documents show that a heifer slipped and fell while being moved from a holding pen to a stunning chute. The animal’s leg became wedged between a welded restraint bar, and her head was stuck under the leg. An employee was able to free the heifer, who became “overly excited.”
On March 15, a steer became “overly excited” and backed out of a stun chute, according to noncompliance records. Thirty minutes later, the inspector saw the animal limping into the stunning shoot. The first stun didn’t work, and the steer “remained standing, vocalized, and had tracking eye movement.” It took another two stuns for the steer to become unconscious.
There was another missed stun on March 22.
PETA has reached out to local prosecutors and attorneys to ask for the incidents to be investigated and for criminal charges to be filed, according to Henstock.
“It’s obvious that this facility has persistent problems, as these latest noncompliance records show, but you can really just imagine — these are thinking, feeling animals who are just as capable as you or I are to feel fear, and pain as they are repeatedly shot in the head in these really just awful attempts that slowly killed them in this slaughterhouse,” he said.
Henstock encourages people to choose vegan options when at the grocery store or restaurants.
News13 has reached out to an Aynor official about whether the town attorney intends to pursue charges. The town has not responded.
Horry County court documents do not show any pending cases against the facility.