Public inspection reports from the United States Department of Agriculture show multiple incidents of “inhumane treatment” of animals at Wolf Pack Meats, a local slaughterhouse operated by the University of Nevada, Reno.
Open for over 50 years, Wolf Pack Meats describes itself on the University of Nevada, Reno’s website as a “unique meat processing plant that specializes in student and professor interactions.” The operation, located at UNR’s Main Station Field Lab on McCarran Boulevard in Reno, sells meat to the public. The facility is under the university’s College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources.
Two inspections from the USDA in March of 2022 described three incidents of inhumane animal treatment. They included forcing too many animals into an enclosed space, beating cattle over the head and accidentally shooting a lamb, failing to properly stun the animal.
Inspectors described witnessing several incidents, including:
On March 10, 2022, an inspector watched an employee attempt to drive cattle into the knock box, where animals are stunned before they are slaughtered. The cattle refused to go into the knock box, and the employee began striking them over the hips and head with a paddle to coerce them to get inside the knock box. When this didn’t work, the employee grabbed a steer by the horns and began to pull the animal towards the knock box. At this point, the inspector asked two other individuals, whose names are redacted in the federal report, to stop the employee. Three and a half hours later, an inspector noticed four cattle shoved into the knock box at the same time. The inspector noted that only one animal should be inside the space at a time, and the animals were all overcrowded.
Five days later, an inspector was present on the slaughter floor heard a loud yell and a gunshot. The inspector found five lambs standing in the corner of the knock box as one other lamb lay on the ground in the center of the pen.
“Its eyes were open, constricted, it had a palpebral (eyelid reaction) reflex, but not vocalizing or attempting to stand up,” the inspector wrote. “I asked the employee what happened and he informed me that the first was a misfire and did not penetrate the animal and that the second shot I heard entered the back of the lamb’s head. The establishment employee performing knocking asked me if he could fire again. The establishment employee then shot the animal for the second time at the poll. After the second shot, the animal’s head dropped to the floor.”
Wolf Pack Meats said it has taken corrective action.
“Following notification by the inspector and the subsequent report of non-compliance, Wolf Pack Meats addressed the issue and submitted a plan for corrective action that was accepted by the USDA, and implemented,” said Shauna Lemieux, UNR spokesperson. “The plan included retraining with senior employees and verification of improved performance. The University of Nevada, Reno takes animal welfare very seriously and maintains AAALAC accreditation at all of its facilities, which is the gold standard accreditation for animal welfare.”
Previous USDA violations
A review of USDA online USDA records that go back to 2015 showed other concerns abouit the facility.
In addition to the inhumane treatment of animals at the plant in March, USDA inspectors last year noticed issues involving the pens that hold livestock earmarked for slaughter at Wolf Pack Meats. “USDA regulations necessitate that pens for holding livestock are kept in good repair and keep animals free of pain and injury,” the report noted..
In September of 2021, Wolf Pack Meats was in the process of replacing the livestock pens when a supervisor drove three pigs scheduled for slaughter into the stunning area. A temporary cattle panel had come loose, allowing one of the pigs to briefly escape to another part of the pen and exposing sharp wire to the animal livestock.
In May 2022, an inspector noticed another violation in the animal enclosures. One pen had a splintered wooden board in a fence, creating a “sharp, pointy edge” towards the inside of the pen. There was another sharp tip on the hose clamp on the metal door to enter the pen, and a broken board in the fence making an opening at the bottom of the fence which needed to be replaced.
The USDA reports note that Wolf Pack Meats took corrective action to remedy the issues.
In general, federal reports indicate that UNR’s agricultural operations have had only a handful of federal enforcement actions since the early 2000s, when USDA inspectors found problems in the institution’s farm and lab facilities. Those inspections came in the wake of a Reno Gazette-Journal investigative series that uncovered incidences of animal neglect and mistreatment at the university, including the deaths of 45 pregnant sheep that weren’t properly fed or watered.
In 2005, UNR paid a “reduced” fine of more than $11,000 to the USDA as a result of 46 alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act. At the time, UNR officials told the newspaper that although they disputed the violations, paying the fine was easier than fighting the allegations.
The institution’s animal labs haven’t been cited for further USDA violations, but Wolf Pack Meats also was given a warning for “inhumane treatment” of animals in 2019. That year, an inspector observed an employee shoot a cow with a .22 cal. magnum rifle three times in an attempt to stun the animal, according to USDA documents.
PETA asks for live video at facility
In a letter to Wolf Pack Meats, the USDA characterized that incident as “an egregious act of inhumane handling of animals in connection with slaughter.” Federal regulations mandate that animals awaiting slaughter should be stunned in a way that causes “immediate unconsciousness.”
Lemieux said that the university responded to the agency’s concerns with plans for corrective actions, all of which were accepted by the USDA. “These were all minor issues,” she said. “It is unfortunate that ‘inhumane treatment’ language is used, as it carries quite a different connotation than what is really occurring at the facility.”
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), sent out a press release about the latest USDA violations involving the beaten cattle and wounded lamb. The group proposed that UNR’s slaughter operation be monitored via a live video feed.
Daniel Paden, PETA’s vice president of evidence analysis, called Wolf Pack Meats a “hell on earth” for animals. In an open letter to Tom Kulas, the operations manager at Wolf Pack Meats, Paden asked for a live-stream video feed of the floor at Wolf Pack Meats, arguing that workers would take their duties more seriously if they knew that there were people watching.
“Given recent U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports detailing a worker beating cattle, the botched shooting of a lamb in the head, and other problems at Wolf Pack Meats, we ask that you immediately change operations in the hope of reducing animal suffering there,” Paden wrote.
Lemieux said that Wolf Pack Meats rejected the idea.