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story.lead_photo.caption Central Missouri Meat & Sausage in Fulton opened its main retail area on Nov. 30. The official ribbon-cutting ceremony is expected in the spring. Photo by Jessica Stone

Despite PETA claims, local law officials will not pursue a criminal case against Central Missouri Meats & Sausage, according to Callaway County Sheriff Clay Chism.

"I will not be the arm of PETA to merely harass any Callaway County citizen or business," Chism said. "At this time, I have not substantiated a violation of state law."

The animal rights group contacted Callaway County Prosecutor Christopher Wilson on July 20, alleging animal abuse at CMMS, based on a USDA document. Wilson said Wednesday he forwarded PETA's complaint to the county sheriff's office.

Melissa Mary Wilson, an attorney with PETA, said the claim is based on a "Notice of suspension" document from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of Field Operations in Springdale, Arkansas. Issued July 3 by the USDA, the notice said an official present at the Callaway facility observed a failed attempt to stun a hog.

Cory Hawkins, CMMS's owner, denied any animal abuse took place.

"These are the most nonviolent-toward-animals people that you'd probably ever meet," he said of his employees.

As a result of the official's report, the USDA temporarily suspended assignment of inspection personnel at the facility — suspending the facility's operations — until CMMS's owners submitted "adequate written corrective and preventative measures to assure that all livestock will be handled in a humane manner during slaughter."

The suspension was lifted July 5, according to a spokesperson for the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, after CMMS submitted the required documents.

In Melissa Wilson's letter to the prosecutor, she requested an investigation and "suitable criminal charges against Central Missouri Meat & Sausage and its worker responsible for failing to stun a pig on the first attempt."

However, the prosecuting attorney said his office doesn't actually initiate criminal investigations.

"That is a common misconception," Christopher Wilson said. "While we are staffed with one full-time investigator, his role is to assist prosecutors in this office by conducting necessary follow-up on criminal cases that have already been fully investigated by the appropriate law enforcement agency."

He said in cases where his office receives allegations of criminal violations, he sends them on to the appropriate law enforcement agency — in this case, the Callaway County Sheriff's Department.

Chism said it isn't his office's place to investigate alleged violations of the federal law.

"PETA will have to contact federal law enforcement in attempt to satisfy their desire for any federal code violation investigation," he said.

He said he had contacted CMMS owners and they had promised to cooperate if there is an investigation.

"While I will exercise my duty to review and assess any complaint, at this time, there is no criminal case being pursued by the sheriff's office," Chism said.

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