The entrance to Masami Foods Inc. in Klamath Falls.

No criminal charges pursued in alleged Klamath Falls animal abuse case

The entrance to Masami Foods Inc. in Klamath Falls.

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. – The Klamath County Sheriff’s Office is announcing their stance on an alleged animal abuse case in Klamath Falls.

On December 7, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) requested a probe of Masami Foods, Inc. after a worker reportedly shot a cow in the head multiple times. PETA called the action “reckless” and “cruel.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture investigated the incident after it happened. In fact, a USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service Supervisory Public Health Veterinarian (SPHV) saw the shootings. “…the SPHV observed the establishment employees attempt to drive an aggressive beef cow through the runs to the ramp,” a USDA report read in part. “The cow would charge establishment staff creating a safety risk to employees. The establishment made the decision to use a .22 caliber rifle to stun and slaughter the cow within this area.”

Slaughtering of large livestock via gunshot is approved as a humane method of slaughtering some animals under the Federal Meat Inspection Act. However, it must be done in a proper manner.

According to the USDA, a worker shot the cow in the forehead in an attempt to stun it from a distance of 30 feet, but it remained standing and conscious, with blood seeping from its mouth and nostrils. The cow was shot again in the forehead. It jerked its head back but remained conscious.

The employee moved closer and shot again, finally rendering the animal unconscious. It was then bled and moved to the harvest area. The entire incident lasted between 7 and 15 minutes.

The USDA suspended the establishment’s operations because this particular shooting wasn’t considered a humane method of slaughter under Oregon law. Officials called the multiple attempts to stun an “egregious inhumane noncompliance.”

Operations at Masami were suspended until the organization could deliver adequate corrective actions to ensure livestock will be slaughtered humanely in accordance with regulations. The sanctions were lifted “months ago,” according to the sheriff’s office.

A USDA report said Masami Foods typically operates “under a robust systematic approach to humane handling…” but this particular incident indicated the employee failed to implement it.

This message was sent to local news organizations on December 7: “PETA is calling for a criminal investigation of this facility and the worker who left a conscious cow bleeding after two gunshot wounds to the head for as long as 15 minutes,” said PETA Senior Vice President of Cruelty Investigations Daphna Nachminovitch. “There’s no difference between the terror and pain that this animal felt and how dogs, cats, or humans would feel if they were shot over and over again.”

On December 8, the Klamath County Sheriff’s Office responded to PETA’s request. The agency said they weren’t notified of the incident at the time it occurred. “It was learned that PETA sent the same information to local news organizations in order to ‘alert’ them to their belief a crime had occurred during the slaughter of this particular aggressive cow,” KCSO wrote in part. “It became apparent that news organizations received this information prior to the KCSO and at least one new outlet ran the story without comment from law enforcement.”

The sheriff’s office said the news quickly sparked public concern a crime had been committed. However, after reviewing the information and consulting with the Klamath County District Attorney’s Office, it was determined no crime had been committed. Appropriate sanctions of Masami Food were executed and lifted.

“The Klamath County Sheriff’s Office will not be investigating Masami Food or the involved employee as requested by PETA,” KCSO wrote. “As stated previously, it was the consensus of law enforcement investigators and [the] Klamath County District Attorney that no crime had been committed.

According to Oregon State Law, “A person commits the crime of animal abuse in the first degree if, except as other authorized by law, the person intentionally, knowingly or recklessly: (a) Causes serious physical injury to an animal; or (b) Cruelly causes the death of an animal.” Any practice of good animal husbandry is not a violation of this law.

On Masami’s website, they say a USDA inspectors are on-site at their facility “from before we begin our process, to ensure the safety of our products.” The meat-packing facility in Klamath Falls processes meat, notably premium Wagyu beef, from a 6,500-acre cattle ranch in Corning, California.

According to Masami Foods, they take extra steps to ensure cattle are well handled. “Arriving cattle from the ranch rest overnight in the holding pens with fresh water to recover from the stress of their trip up to Masami Foods.” They say the typical time from stunning to chilling is designed to be completed within ten minutes.

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