Mercy For Animals has joined forces with Lewis and Clark Law School’s Animal Law Litigation Clinic, Farm Sanctuary, Animal Equality, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Center for Biological Diversity, Compassion Over Killing, and North Carolina Farmed Animal Save to file its first lawsuit. The suit challenges the United States Department of Agriculture’s deregulation of pig slaughterhouses, arguing that the agency has violated numerous laws intended to protect animals, the environment, and consumers.
Daina Bray, Mercy For Animals’ general counsel, said:
The USDA’s new rule will undermine the already inadequate protections for pigs in slaughterhouses and result in unspeakable suffering. Speeding up pig slaughter lines and removing slaughterhouse inspectors prioritizes factory farm profits while putting animals, workers, consumers, and the environment in harm’s way.
The lawsuit challenges the USDA’s decision to remove federal inspectors from key roles in pig slaughterhouses, replacing them with untrained slaughterhouse staff. The timing is particularly dangerous, as infectious diseases among pigs are on the rise. An outbreak of African swine fever this year has already taken the lives of millions of pigs in parts of Asia, and the virus is expected to spread.
The suit also objects to the USDA’s decision to remove limits on slaughter line speeds. Previously, slaughterhouses were permitted to kill up to 1,106 pigs per hour. Under the new regulation, there is no limit. Evidence shows that allowing high-speed slaughter leads to increased violations of food-safety and humane-handling laws, including failure to properly render pigs unconscious before they have their throats slit and are dropped into scalding tanks.
Animal rights groups like Mercy For Animals are not alone in opposing the USDA’s new regulation. Environmental and workers’ rights groups have also spoken out against it, including the National Employment Law Project, Human Rights Watch, Food & Water Watch, the American Federation of Government Employees, and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.
In addition to alleging violations of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, the lawsuit argues that the USDA has violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to properly consider the environmental implications of the new rule. The Center for Biological Diversity’s senior attorney, Hannah Connor, stated:
Slaughtering 11.5 million more pigs in these plants will recklessly increase the already overwhelming amount of pollution generated by this dirty industry.
Mercy For Animals is represented in the case by Lewis and Clark Law School’s Animal Law Litigation Clinic, the only law school clinic in the world dedicated to farmed animal advocacy. Assistant Clinical Professor and Clinic Director Delcianna Winders, a leading animal law practitioner and scholar who has been involved in more than a dozen cases against the USDA related to its failure to protect animals, said:
These sensitive, intelligent animals are already largely overlooked by the law, and now the USDA has effectively written out the little protections Congress extended to them. This illegal regulation is a total abdication of the USDA’s statutory responsibilities to millions of pigs and must be overturned.
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