Mercy For Animals Joins Lawsuit Against the USDA over Increased Slaughter Speeds

On February 25, Mercy For Animals, Animal Outlook, the Humane Society of the United States, Government Accountability Project, and Marin Humane filed a lawsuit challenging the United States Department of Agriculture’s decision to increase line-speed limits at chicken slaughterhouses.

In many slaughterhouses, chickens are hastily shackled by their legs, upside down, onto fast-moving lines that kill birds at a rate of up to 140 per minute. Despite problems associated with this rate, the USDA now authorizes some slaughterhouses to increase line speeds up to 175 birds per minute—nearly three birds per second.

We believe the USDA’s line-speed increase will result in greater injury risks for employees in an already dangerous job and cause more inhumane treatment of chickens. The rapid pace of typical slaughter lines subjects millions of birds to extreme suffering through improper shackling and failed stunning. Many chickens are fully conscious when their throats are slit, while others—about half a million in the United States each year—are drowned in the scalding water of feather-removal tanks.

In their lawsuit, Mercy For Animals and the coalition argue that the USDA’s 2018 decision violates the Administrative Procedure Act, Poultry Products Inspection Act, and National Environmental Policy Act. The suit seeks to reverse the increase in line speeds and ensure that any future increases comply with the law.

Of course, the best way to prevent this kind of abuse of animals and workers is to choose plant-based foods. Together, we can one day eliminate slaughter lines altogether!