Over the past year, Mercy For Animals has filed several lawsuits challenging the United States Department of Agriculture’s treatment of animals at slaughterhouses. Two of these lawsuits challenge the USDA’s deregulation of pig slaughterhouses and failure to ban the slaughter of “downed” pigs. Recently, the Western District of New York denied motions by the USDA to dismiss these two lawsuits.
The first lawsuit challenges the USDA’s removal of federal inspectors from key roles in pig slaughterhouses—replacing them with slaughterhouse staff—and its lifting of the limit on line speeds, paving the way for more violations of food-safety and humane-handling laws. The suit argues that the agency has violated numerous laws intended to protect animals, the environment, and consumers. Increased line speeds heighten the risk that pigs are still conscious when they have their throats slit and are dropped into scalding tanks.
The second lawsuit seeks to force the USDA to review the slaughter of “downed” pigs. Each year, more than half a million pigs arrive at U.S. slaughterhouses too sick or injured to stand. Downed pigs may be “saved for last” at the slaughterhouse and are often left lying in waste for hours.
We at Mercy For Animals urge the USDA to reduce suffering for downed pigs by requiring them to be euthanized rather than slaughtered for human consumption. This simple change will align the rules for downed pigs with those for downed cows (who currently must be euthanized) while protecting human health and sparing hundreds of thousands of animals additional pain and suffering.
We are pleased that these lawsuits—which demonstrate the interconnectedness of animal suffering and public health—will continue to move forward. We thank the Lewis and Clark Law School’s Animal Law Litigation Clinic for representing us in these lawsuits and the other animal and environmental protection organizations standing with us as plaintiffs.
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