CSIs Anthony Carson, Rick Toot and Rosalinda Curb: The Agency's Mission in Action
Humane handling—it sounds simple enough, it rolls off the tongue and is a popular topic in the news and social media. What you may not know is that behind the scenes, there are boots on the ground and dedicated personnel, hard at work every day to transform "humane handling" from a catch phrase to a reality. Beyond the words are the actions of FSIS personnel who inspect all livestock before and at slaughter to ensure that they are treated humanely.
In addition to their food safety tasks, many FSIS in-plant personnel, including Public Health Veterinarians (PHVs), Consumer Safety Inspectors (CSIs) and Food Inspectors (FIs), work together to verify that livestock are treated humanely, but CSIs are primarily responsible for conducting non-slaughter inspection activities. These offline activities are key to ensuring compliance with food safety and humane handling regulatory requirements and include reviewing records, observing plant operations and conducting hands-on verification and enforcement activities.
The following FSIS team members are just a few of the exemplary people working in the field every day to protect public health and ensure the humane treatment of animals presented for slaughter.
Anthony Carson, a CSI in the Dallas district (Amarillo circuit), contributes greatly to enforcing humane handling policy at the cull cattle plant where he works.
As the oldest son of a small-town veterinarian, Carson has worked with cattle for as long as he can remember. Carson's father has been the greatest influence in his life and his career. "Dad gave me that love of animal husbandry, instilled in me a strong work ethic and showed me the importance of constant self improvement."
After gaining hands-on experience in the clinic and on farms with his father, he obtained an associate's degree in Animal Science and a bachelor's degree in Agricultural Services and Development. After college, he worked for a large swine operation in Dalhart, Texas, and as the manager of the cattle hospital program at a cattle feedlot in Hartley, Texas. Carson was drawn to FSIS when, in 1998, his father joined the agency as a Public Health Veterinarian at a beef plant in Childress, Texas.
"I was attracted to the benefits, especially the ability to take annual leave," says Carson. "Trying to take more than 2 days off in a cattle feedlot is harder than getting blood from a rock." Carson's father is now working as a Field Veterinary Medical Officer with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and Carson continues to bring knowledge, skills and professionalism to his job at FSIS. "I like knowing that I'm part of a large team with the goal of protecting public health. I also know that my role as a CSI means that I am the point of contact in my plant for all the work of the agency."
Carson says that he and his supervisor, PHV Dr. Mary Hayes, have been very successful in conveying the agency's humane handling standards to the establishment. "The reason for this success is communication," Carson says. "We have good open communication with the establishment management, and they are not afraid to discuss any issue with us. We work together and have the same goal—that consumers receive a safe, wholesome product produced in a humane manner."
Rick Toot, a CSI in the Denver district (Billings, Mont., circuit), currently works a four-plant patrol assignment between Butte and Anaconda, Mont., including establishment 2439 in Butte, which slaughters cull dairy cows, fat cattle, beef cows, bulls, swine, sheep, goats, elk and bison.
Toot began his 35-year career with FSIS at age 20 and has served in Oregon, Washington and Montana. "An older co-worker liked to tell everyone that I was so young when I started that my mother had to drive me to work," says Toot.
Although Toot lives and works in a somewhat remote location, that has not prevented him from staying on the cutting edge of food safety and humane handling. "I wanted to stay in the field and live in a rural community to raise my kids and have a few head of livestock of my own," Toot says. "Over time, I saw many of our inspectors fail to keep up with new policies and technology. I was always determined to remain relevant, so to speak, and be willing to adapt to new guidance and technology that is constantly evolving."
The slaughter establishment that Toot inspects has new management, and he has been instrumental in implementing humane handling-related suspensions at the establishment and educating the new management. As a result, Toot says, "They have responded very well to the requirements of the humane handling regulations and have taken the responsibility to address issues before we need to step in."
With his supervisor, PHV Dr. Robert Getzelman, and FI Leonard Mingneau, Toot monitors the welfare and treatment of every single animal that enters the slaughter establishment. Getzelman appreciates Toot's commitment to the mission. "Rick does a tremendous job every day and is one of the finest inspectors that I have had the privilege of working with during my 10 years in the agency," Getzelman says. "His experience, knowledge, and dedication have been great assets to me and other team members. He is especially adept and competent in dealing with humane handling issues." Toot's compassion is evident in his dedication to his job and in his words. "It is my personal opinion," he says, "that the livestock we inspect are entitled to an ethical, humane and respectful passing into their final service to man."
|"All of their attention to humane handling is vital to our public health mission."
FSIS Administrator Al Almanza
Rosalinda Curb, a CSI in the Alameda district (Hanford, Calif., circuit), is very observant and conscientious regarding the care and handling of the cattle at an establishment that slaughters predominately cull dairy cows, in addition to beef and range cattle.
Before working for FSIS, Curb worked for a chicken slaughter plant. She was attracted to FSIS by the promise of "job security and a workplace where women are equal to men." Curb says that Drs. Phyllis Adams, Thomas Hou, Richard Henley, William Ribeiro, Edward Klebanow and Barbara Peterson were most influential in her
career "because these are some of the hardest working Inspectors-in-Charge. I had the pleasure of working with and learning from them." As a CSI at a livestock slaughter establishment, Curb makes sure that the establishment follows its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point plan and Sanitation Standard Operating Procedures and complies with humane handling regulations. Curb says that since the agency has focused on improving enforcement of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, "I notice that we are more aware of how the animal is being treated. There is more communication with plant management about humane handling."
Administrator Al Almanza is proud to call Carson, Toot and Curb, his colleagues. "All of their attention to humane handling is vital to our public health mission," says Almanza. "The agency is fortunate to have such committed and inspired people who are making a difference to food safety and animal health every day."