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Springfield Slaughterhouse Receives Four USDA Violations

A Vermont slaughterhouse received four United States Department of Agriculture violations in the past year, and an animal rights group is asking regulators to consider withdrawing the plant's federal inspection program.

Vermont Packinghouse opened in North Springfield about three years ago.

The company specializes in processing meat from nearby farms, and it has seen its business increase with the growth of the localvore movement.

About 50 people now work at the slaughterhouse, which claims to handle its animals with respect and dignity.

But four times in the past year, Vermont Packinghouse had to suspend operations because it violated U.S.D.A. standards.

According to federal reports, Vermont Packinghouse staff failed to kill animals on the first try, which U.S.D.A. considers to be an egregious violation.

Vermont Packinghouse co-owner Arion Thiboumery says the violations occurred when the animals were allowed to move around too much, and the person operating the stun gun failed to deliver the shock adequately.

"Every one of those issues was a disappointment both for me and for the staff," Thibioumery said. "We work with animals that come from a lot of beautiful, small farms. They've lived a good life and we want to give them a good death."

Dena Jones is with the Animal Welfare Institute, an animal rights group based in Washington, D.C. She says it's unusual for one facility to receive so many violations in a single year.

After each violation, operations were suspended at Vermont Packinghouse, and Jones says the company failed to take appropriate actions to prevent it from happening again.

She says Animal Welfare Institute sent a letter to the regional U.S.D.A. office asking them to open an investigation to see if the slaughterhouse should have its federal inspection program terminated.

"Because the plant has been shut down repeatedly, and had the same thing occur again, we think they have to take the next step" Jones said.

Jones said in each occurrence, the animal suffered from the inhumane treatment.

Thiboumery says Vermont Packinghouse made upgrades to the plant to prevent further violations.

Howard Weiss-Tisman is Vermont Public's reporter for Southern Vermont & the Connecticut River Valley. He worked at the Brattleboro Reformer for 11 years, reporting on most towns in the region and specializing on statewide issues including education, agriculture, energy and mental health. Howard received a BA in Journalism from University of Massachusetts. He filed his first story with Vermont Public in September 2015.
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