Farmer points to gap in Vermont slaughter regulations - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Farmer points to gap in Vermont slaughter regulations

Greensboro, Vermont - April 28, 2011

Ray Shatney raises Highland cattle for show and commercial meat on his Shatacres farm in Greensboro.

"They are humanely raised-- that is what our promotion is for selling Greenfield Highland beef-- we take excellent care of these cattle," Shatney said.

Recently a wayward heifer showed up on his farm numerous times, dodging traffic on busy Route 16. But after returning the heifer several times, it kept returning. Shatney offered to buy the cow from its owner. The man agreed, but no money changed hands.

Shatney put the heifer in the barn with two young bulls he intended to use for showing and breeding. He says the wayward heifer-- not being a Highland breed-- was of little use to him. His plan was to take it to a USDA-registered slaughterhouse and then donate the beef to several food shelves. But the next day, when Shatney returned to his barn the heifer was gone and the barnyard was drenched in blood.

"Upon further review looking around I found out that she had been killed in my barn, taken and bled out at the end of the barn," Shatney said.

Shatney says the heifer's owner hired an itinerant backyard slaughterer-- a person who helps livestock owners process their own meat. The law says it must be done on their own property and for personal use. He says the men were trespassing and his bulls that were in the pen at the time have been traumatized ever since.

"They were very nervous, they-- you couldn't get near them and something horrible had happened in that pen with them. These animals had been worked with for six months getting ready for show and they are different animals," Shatney said.

He figures he can no longer work with the bulls and they will eventually have to be used for meat. Shatney's partner Janet Steward says there is a bigger issue here.

"I think one of the things that I have learned is that there really are no regulations to oversee what in Vermont we call itinerant backyard slaughterers, so they are not licensed by the state of Vermont and the person who came onto our property fell into that category," she said.

"There are no rules really that say these itinerant slaughterers have to register with us or anything, so a lot of times we don't know who they are. There was a move awhile back to have them register so we would know who they are, so we could explain what the regulations were and what they could and couldn't do-- that hasn't happened," said Randy Quenneville of the Vermont Agriculture Agency.

Shatney and Steward say it's a shortcoming in the law that is leaving them adding up the cost of taking in a wayward heifer.

We did attempt to contact both the owner of the heifer, Michael Croce and the man Shatney says slaughtered the animal, Dave McCoy, but we were unsuccessful. The state and the Hardwick Police Department are investigating this incident and the two men may face charges.

Judy Simpson - WCAX News

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