A worker shown in a shocking undercover video jabbing apparently sick cows to their feet for slaughter was following orders from management, his lawyer said yesterday. The attorney made the accusation as he negotiated with federal investigators to work out a plea deal for his client, reports the Wall Street Journal. The video triggered a record recall of 143 million pounds of beef from the Hallmark/Westland California operation because such "downer" cows can be a source of mad cow disease.
The worker faces three misdemeanor charges of using equipment to move cows that couldn't walk or stand. Agriculture Secretary Edward Schafer tried to reassure senators yesterday that the beef supply is safe, despite conditions shown in the video. Some lawmakers were skeptical. "We don't know if that meat that got into the food supply is safe or not," said one senator. "We can't say those things if we don't really know." (Read more beef industry stories.)