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Illegal Activity Doesn't Stop at Animal Abuse

Op-Ed

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We are all appalled by the widespread mistreatment of "downed" dairy cows—those who are too sick or injured to walk—at the Hallmark Meat Packing plant in Chino. These downed animals are entering the food chain, threatening the safety of our nation's food supply and the health of America's beef consumers. In fact, Hallmark supplies meat for school lunches and other federal aid programs nationwide, putting some of our most vulnerable citizens at risk.

Of the 15 known cases of Mad Cow disease in North America, 12 involved the consumption of meat exposed to downed animals. This can lead to a variant of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease—a fatal, degenerative brain disease for which there is no cure. I am an original co-sponsor of legislation to address this problem and we should do so as soon as possible.

But this is likely not the only problem at Hallmark.

This callousness toward federal food safety laws should lead to further investigations of other possible violations of federal, state and local laws. I've always said animal abuse is often accompanied by other crimes. Other well-known acts of animal abuse, such as dogfighting and cockfighting, which I have long led the fight to end, are associated with drugs, gambling, violence and, in many cases, illegal immigration.

Meat packing plants are notorious for employing illegal work forces. In the past few years, federal agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have raided dozens of meat packing plants across the country. In the course of these raids, they have discovered numerous crimes: identity theft, drugs and, of course, illegal workers.

For example, in December 2006, federal agents raided Swift & Company meat processing plants in Colorado, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, Iowa and Minnesota. During the raids, more than 1,300 illegal immigrants were arrested. Many were using stolen identities to gain employment. In fact, just last week, one of the 261 Swift & Company employees arrested in Nebraska was sentenced in U.S. District Court for misusing documents and using the name and Social Security number of another person to obtain employment at Swift & Co. The ironic part is Swift had been using a government pilot program since 1997 to confirm whether workers' Social Security numbers were valid.

In April 2007, ICE agents arrested 60 illegal workers at a meat processing facility in central Illinois. Eleven of them were charged with aggravated identity theft. In August 2007, ICE agents arrested 161 workers in an Ohio meat packing facility owned by Koch Foods. Many of these were charged with the same crime.

The same thing could well be occurring at Hallmark. ICE should thoroughly investigate any further possible crimes at Hallmark.

Again, many crimes don't stop at animal abuse.


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