Protecting Food. Empowering Whistleblowers.

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USDA Inspector Unites with Family After Year of Retaliation

Jim Schrier is one of several USDA meat inspectors that FIC supports. Jim is a courageous inspector who risked his professional career when he blew the whistle and exposed the inhumane truths of the pork industry. Jim was retaliated against for his ethical stand when the agency moved him to another facility far from his home. But with FIC’s help, Jim’s disturbing revelations made headlines and he was finally able to return to his family.

In late 2012, Jim – who has dutifully served as a USDA meat inspector for 30 years – blew the whistle on inhumane handling of pigs at a Tyson Foods slaughter plant in Columbus Junction, Iowa. He witnessed improper stunning of pigs before slaughter. This is a direct violation of federal humane handling regulations that require pigs to be completely unconscious and unable to feel pain prior to shackling. Jim thought he was simply doing his job when he brought these concerns to his supervisor, but instead of enforcing the regulations, management became angry. To silence Jim, they moved him to a different slaughterhouse more than 120 miles away from his home. In order to keep his job, Jim was forced to stay in a hotel, isolated from his friends and family.

The Campaign took on Jim’s case, worked with media to cover his story, and supported a Change.org petition launched by his wife, Tammy, to bring her husband back to his original post. She collected more than 200,000 petition signatures urging the agency to return Jim home. With public pressure from FIC supporters, the USDA finally agreed to negotiate, and by late 2013, the agency moved Jim back to work at a facility near his home and family. It was quite a year for Jim, but we’re glad he was able to make it back in time to spend the holidays with his loved ones.

Jim is just one of many USDA whistleblowers that GAP has helped make inhumane handling disclosures. Help us make a difference in animal welfare by donating today.

Legacy of USDA Veterinarian Remains

The late Dr. Dean Wyatt went from marginalized whistleblower to respected expert after risking his career to blow the whistle on humane handling violations.

In 2007, Dr. Wyatt, a USDA veterinarian, witnessed horrific animal abuse at an Oklahoma slaughterhouse. He refused to remain silent. Instead of heeding his concerns, Dr. Wyatt’s supervisors temporarily demoted him and then transferred him across the country to Vermont in an effort to keep him quiet. But Dr. Wyatt discovered more abuse and acts of wrongdoing at the Vermont facility as well, and again endured retaliation for speaking up.

Dr. Wyatt was vindicated later in 2009 by undercover video taken at the Vermont plant, which confirmed the violations he had reported to supervisors. A Government Accountability Office report also substantiated his concerns that humane handling regulations were not being enforced. FIC then helped him prepare and deliver testimony to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, where he detailed his experiences and made recommendations for agency reform. Since Dr. Wyatt’s death in late 2010, the USDA has continued to make changes based on those recommendations.

Dr. Wyatt is a profile in courageous truth-telling. Have you witnessed waste, fraud, and/or abuse of authority in the workplace? Make sure to visit our Whistleblower Resources section to learn how you can make the ethical decision to blow the whistle.

Food Lion

Brave whistleblowers revealed shocking abuses of food safety standards at grocery chain Food Lion that were subsequently featured in a national ABC exposé. After a 10-year battle, GAP’s food safety program (before becoming FIC) was able to protect the identity of the whistleblowers involved so they wouldn’t face retaliation for speaking up.

In 1991, Food Lion insiders began reporting to GAP a list of concerns, including that employees were:

  • grinding spoiled and expired meat into sausage
  • removing expiration dates from out-of-date products
  • improperly refrigerating dairy and egg products
  • overlooking rodent and bug infestation
  • washing off meat that was slimy, greenish and putrid
  • soaking poultry in bleach to conceal spoilage
  • putting tomato sauce on expired chicken and selling the new product at a higher price

GAP took these concerns to ABC, which aired a national exposé on the confirmed allegations. Afterward, Food Lion’s corporate attorneys filed a subpoena demanding confidential whistleblower information that GAP refused to reveal in order to protect the truth-telling employees’ identities. For over 10 years, GAP fought the Food Lion subpoena, ultimately prevailing. Meanwhile the company’s profits plunged as a result of the exposé, and its stock plummeted to half its previous value, causing it to close 80 stores and to cancel plans to open 80 more.

FIC continues to fight corporate wrongdoers. Keep up with our work by signing up for our FIC e-Newsletter.

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