The U.S. Senate recently released its latest proposed COVID-19 stimulus package, the HEALS Act, which sets aside $20 billion for mass on-farm slaughter (known as “depopulation” in the meat industry). Mercy For Animals and other animal protection groups are urging congressional leaders to ensure that taxpayer funds do not support the cruelest methods of on-farm slaughter and to avoid such senseless killing in the future by incentivizing preparedness instead. In a letter to congressional leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, the coalition states in part:
We urge you to ensure that taxpayer funds do not go towards some of the most inhumane “depopulation” methods used to kill farmed animals. While the unnecessary and unplanned death of any animal is unfortunate, certain methods used for depopulation—particularly ventilation shutdown and water-based foam—present serious and undeniable animal welfare concerns.
In addition to Mercy For Animals, the coalition behind this letter includes the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the ASPCA, the Animal Welfare Institute, the Humane Farming Association, and Compassion in World Farming.
The COVID-19 pandemic has created economic challenges across all industries, but some were less prepared than others. As a result of dangerous working conditions for vulnerable workers, slaughterhouses around the country have become COVID-19 hotspots, forcing some to shut down. That, along with supply chain disruptions and fluctuations in demand, has created a “surplus” of animals at farms who cannot be sent to slaughter. This has resulted in cruel en masse killing of millions of animals at farms.
One method of “depopulation” is ventilation shutdown—farmers turn off the ventilation systems and water supplies in their barns and wait for the animals (usually pigs, chickens, or turkeys) to slowly suffocate or overheat. This method is so horrific that a group of veterinarians has formed Veterinarians Against Ventilation Shut Down, an organization that urges the American Veterinary Medical Association to remove this method from its guidelines for acceptable depopulation methods. Another method, used specifically to mass kill chickens and turkeys, is “water-based foaming.” This involves covering chickens with foam and blocking their airways, killing them over several agonizing minutes.
The HEALS Act (currently awaiting a vote in Congress) does not differentiate among the various methods of mass on-farm killing. In its letter to congressional leaders, the coalition of animal protection groups asks that the USDA not reimburse any producers that have used ventilation shutdown, ventilation shutdown with added heat, ventilation shutdown with added gas, or water-based foaming. These cruel methods result in prolonged animal suffering and should not be incentivized with taxpayer dollars.
The meat industry has once again demonstrated the disastrous consequences of its failure to take adequate preventative measures. The coalition letter further asks that Congress require producers to take steps to prepare for future market disruptions.
Do your part to speak up for animals! If you live in the United States, tell the government not to fund this cruelty. Visit https://mercyforanimals.org/NoSlaughterBailout.