People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is asking the Finney County Attorney’s Office to investigate the Tyson Fresh Meats plant near Holcomb and consider criminal charges against one or more of its employees, who according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, failed to humanely handle the euthanization of an ailing steer in July.

The letter, sent Wednesday to County Attorney Susan Richmeier, noted that according to a USDA notice, employees responsible for euthanizing steers at the plant left one downed for about 30 minutes before euthanasia was deemed necessary. The first attempt to kill the animal failed, and no attempt succeeded until “at least” five captive bolt blasts were fired into the steer’s head, a corresponding statement said.

Richmeier said Friday that she is reviewing the case and has yet to make a decision.

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) suspended slaughter operations at Tyson on July 19, but conditionally lifted the suspension the next day. The notice of suspension issued to Tyson plant manager Anthony Lang was based on the plant’s “failure to prevent inhumane handling of slaughter of livestock…”

According to the notice, at about 8:15 p.m. July 19, personnel observed a steer lying on its back in a pen. Workers were ordered to close the gate and give it a chance to get up. The inspection continued for 30 to 40 minutes, at which point the animal was observed lying on its side, seemingly dead.

After observing eye movement, the notice said, personnel were directed to euthanize the steer to prevent further suffering.

After completing paperwork and other regulatory procedures, the notice said, a staff member observed another employee attempting and failing to euthanize the animal. An employee was subsequently observed administering three captive bolt blasts to the animal without any effect, although the equipment appeared to work.

According to the notice, additional knocking guns were requested, when shortly thereafter the “affected animal got up.” Personnel then administered five captive bolt blasts to the animal’s head, killing it after the fifth attempt. The notice stated that many of the guns “either misfired or didn’t fire at all.”

PETA noted in a public statement that the incident may violate Kansas’ cruelty-to-animals statute.

“PETA is calling for a criminal investigation of the incident at this Tyson Foods slaughterhouse, at which a worker shot a downed steer in the head multiple times in botched attempts at killing him,” PETA Senior Vice President of Cruelty Investigations Daphna Nachminovitch said in the statement. “There’s no difference between the terror and pain that this steer felt and how dogs or cats would feel if shots were fired into their skulls.”

Tyson issued the following statement:

“We never want to see any animal in our care suffer, and believe proper animal handling is an important moral and ethical obligation. Everyone who works with live animals in our facilities is trained regularly in proper animal handling, and the team members involved in this incident are receiving additional training and ongoing performance evaluations. As indicated in the USDA report, this incident occurred as a result of equipment error. We have worked with USDA to resolve the matter and are working with the manufacturer to improve equipment practices.”

Tyson immediately issued a preventative plan in verification to FSIS that such incidents would not occur again, according to USDA documents. The plan involved additional training of stunning operators pertaining to equipment use, as well as additional training of new employees. The plan also stipulated that malfunctioning captive bolt equipment would be taken out of service for review and potential repair, and that all other captive bolt stun guns would be dissembled, checked and cleaned.

After receiving the plan on July 20, the FSIS conditionally lifted the suspension.