Vt. slaughterhouse worker pleads guilty to cruelty

A former Vermont slaughterhouse worker accused of abusing calves en route to slaughter pleaded guilty Thursday to animal cruelty and will be sentenced to 30 days on a work crew.

Christopher Gaudette, 37, an employee of now-closed Bushway Packing Inc. in Grand Isle, entered the plea to a felony count after being accused of excessively shocking a downed calf, throwing a calf and pouring water on one and then shocking it.

As part of the plea, Gaudette will receive a suspended sentence of one to three years, with 30 days to serve on a state work crew.

The co-owner of Bushway, Frank Perretta, was fined $2,000 and given a suspended sentence of up to one year after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor animal cruelty charge in October.

"It is inexcusable that newborn calves were subjected to such horrendous and needless cruelty on their way to their death, and we are pleased that these defenseless animals received some justice in this case," said Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States.

The Humane Society captured the abuse last year on undercover video after getting tips about abuse at Bushway Packing, which has since closed.

A review of the video by the U.S. Department of Agriculture found three instances involving Perretta that should have resulted in regulatory action and one that amounted to "egregious inhumane handling," according to an affidavit from the Vermont attorney general's office.

In that one, a young veal calf was shocked as it was moved from a truck, down a ramp and into a holding pen, with Perretta continuing to shock it as it fell to the ground.

After viewing the scene, Perretta said he didn't do anything wrong.

After the case came to light, Vermont lawmakers passed a measure increasing criminal penalties for inhumane treatment of animals, making money available for training of slaughterhouse employees in humane treatment and establishing an advisory council to evaluate state laws and make policy recommendations.