On Friday, the The Kansas City Star publicized an investigative report in the case of Government Accountability Project (GAP) client Jim Schrier, a veteran federal food safety inspector who faces retaliation after blowing the whistle on violations of humane handling regulations at a USDA-regulated Tyson Foods plant in Iowa. GAP represents Schrier in connection with his whistleblower retaliation case.
GAP Food Integrity Campaign (FIC) Director Amanda Hitt stated:
"USDA's retaliation against Mr. Schrier is in direct violation of the federal whistleblower law, and mirrors the experiences of other meat industry whistleblowers we've worked with at GAP. It is evident that internal government mechanisms for reporting abuse simply do not work. Iowa's Ag Gag law, which criminalizes undercover videotaping, is a terrible idea."
For over 20 years, GAP has worked with meat industry whistleblowers including USDA employees like Schrier, who have witnessed wrongdoing at slaughterhouses and faced serious repercussions for speaking up.
Serving as a USDA meat inspector for 29 years, Schrier was recently stationed at a Tyson Foods slaughter facility in Iowa where he reported clear humane handling violations involving market hogs to his supervisor, including:
- Conscious Animals being Shackled/Slaughtered: Schrier witnessed that pigs being shackled for slaughter were kicking and thrashing violently. This is a direct and gross violation of the USDA's humane handling violations that require pigs to be completely unconscious and unable to feel pain prior to shackling.
- Inadequate Stunning: USDA regulations require market hogs be rendered unconscious prior to shackling and slaughter. Schrier witnessed that many pigs were having to be stunned after being shackled, indicating that the pigs hadn't been stunned properly before shackling.
When Schrier raised his humane-handling concerns to his supervisor, the supervisor became very angry, and one week later, Schrier was sent to work at another facility 120 miles away. Recently, the USDA decided to reassign him permanently to a facility in another state.
Sarah Damian is New Media Associate for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.