Mercy For Animals recently joined forces with over 40 organizations, businesses, and individuals to send a letter to President Biden urging him to require regulatory protections for nonambulatory—or “downed”—pigs. Signatories include American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Center for Biological Diversity, HEAL Food Alliance, Health Care Without Harm, Climate Systems Solutions, and Latino Farmers & Ranchers International.
“Downed” animals are some of the most vulnerable beings on the planet. Each year, about half a million pigs arrive at U.S. slaughterhouses so sick, exhausted, or injured that they can’t stand. These pigs are often “saved for last” and left lying in waste for hours. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) records describe workers kicking, prodding, shocking, dragging, and beating these animals in attempts to make them stand and walk to the slaughter floor.
Because downed pigs are unable to rise, they are often left to lie in waste for long periods. This makes exposure to Salmonella and other harmful pathogens more likely. Studies show that many downed pigs are infected with H1N1 swine flu and commonly harbor antibiotic-resistant Campylobacter. In spite of this, meat from downed pigs is still part of the U.S. food supply.
Working with downed pigs is also dangerous for workers, who face increased risk of contracting zoonotic diseases and injury from handling immobilized, stressed animals.
In 2007, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the USDA implemented regulations protecting nonambulatory adult cows. In 2016, these regulations were extended to calves.
Seven organizations, including Mercy For Animals, requested a similar rule for downed pigs in 2019, but the USDA denied the petition. In 2022, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) submitted for the record a series of questions for Dr. José Emilio Esteban, the candidate for FSIS undersecretary, regarding downed pigs. Dr. Esteban said that FSIS would not take any action on downed pigs until there was a threat equivalent to “mad cow disease.”
We shouldn’t wait for another outbreak like mad cow disease before enacting regulations that protect people and ease the suffering of animals. Take action today by sending a message to President Biden and the USDA calling on them to implement regulations to remove downed pigs from the food supply.
Cover Photo: Ron Chiang / We Animals Media