TEWKSBURY — The Tewksbury Board of Health conducted a public hearing on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019 to discuss whether the Board of Health permit for “the keeping of animals” at 199 Marston St., Oliveira Piggery, should be modified, suspended or revoked, or that any other actions regarding the site assignment decision relating to the permission to operate a custom slaughterhouse require modification, according to the posted agenda and statement as such read by the board chairperson.
The hearing was necessitated by a complaint and subsequent criminal charges resulting from the manner in which a cow was allegedly treated and killed. As described by Board of Health Chairperson Ray Barry, the cow was allegedly chained at the neck with the head torn off by a Bobcat.
Slaughterhouse owner Dinis Oliveira did not appear at the hearing and was instead represented by his attorney in front of the board. Additionally, three Animal Control officers and Tewksbury Town Counsel Kevin Feeley were present.
The Town Hall meeting room was filled with residents and visitors, some of whom were prepared to speak on the issue. Oliveira’s attorney suggested that the action as described could not happen, and that, while animal slaughter can be disturbing to the uninitiated, it is a necessary part of meat production.
The Board of Health contends that all slaughter operations are to be conducted inside the slaughterhouse, not outdoors where the public might witness such activities. Drivers, delivering propane to the site, allegedly witnessed and reported the incident in question. An animal cruelty case has been filed by the Animal Control Officers through the Tewksbury Police Department.
Oliveira’s operation at 199 Marston St. provides custom animal slaughtering and services for a variety of ethnic communities who consume meat that must be slaughtered in a certain manner according to their religious traditions. Animals are purchased at auction and brought to the Marston Street location where customers then pick their animals for slaughter.
This is not the first time that Oliveira has raised the attention of the town, having been cited for animal blood and tissue in the sewer system and operating a slaughterhouse outside of town bylaws in 2014. Oliveira also gained some publicity in 2014 when a goat escaped his property and made its way to Lowell.
The Board of Health’s involvement is limited to the permit for the keeping of animals, and waiver for operating a custom slaughterhouse. Oliveira and an associate, Fredy Francisco Menjiva, were arrested on Nov. 1, 2019 and charged with one count of Animal Cruelty (MGL Ch 272 S77) and conspiracy to commit animal cruelty (MGL Ch 274 S7) according to police records.
Animal control officers, after conducting an inspection of the property and investigation of the complaint of animal cruelty as witnessed by two delivery drivers, determined that Oliveira and Menjiva had “tortured, mutilated, and inflicted unnecessary cruelty upon the cow.” A criminal pre-trial hearing is scheduled for Dec. 19, 2019 in Lowell District Court.
As it appeared that the attorney for Oliveira had not been provided with the level of detail about the slaughterhouse operation that the Board of Health was seeking, a continuance of the hearing was scheduled for Nov. 21 at Town Hall. Board of Health member Robert Scarano explained that the board’s responsibility was to determine whether or not to render a “preliminary, interim or final decision,” and could not sufficiently do so without additional information.
The board asked for an operational plan from Oliveira by the next hearing, which the attorney representing Oliveira agreed to, and an assurance that all slaughter would be conducted inside the slaughter building. The evidentiary portion of the meeting and the public input portion of the hearing will continue on Nov. 21 at 6:15 p.m. and is open to all.