Representative Escobar and Nine Other Members of Congress Call On the USDA to Protect Downed Pigs

Today, Representative Escobar (D-TX) sent a bipartisan letter—signed by nine other members of the House of Representatives—calling on the USDA to remove downed pigs from the food system. Here’s why this is big news: 

The USDA has yet to do its duty to implement regulations for downed pigs, even though advocates and members of Congress continue to highlight the serious risk to public health and the agency has already implemented regulations protecting downed cows and calves. Congresswoman Escobar stated:

Downed pigs—which cannot get up and walk because they are too injured or sick to do so—not only pose a grave safety threat to consumers nationally, but their slaughter and the conditions leading up to it are cruel and inhumane.

In 2014, Mercy For Animals, along with a group of other nonprofits, petitioned the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to implement regulations for downed pigs. The petition was denied in 2019, partly because of FSIS’s reliance on standards created and regulated by the pork industry. 

In June of this year, Mercy For Animals and a group of stakeholders sent a letter to President Biden asking the administration to address this problem. Additionally, Mercy For Animals led comments to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on this topic.

Mercy For Animals is so grateful to Representative Escobar for bringing this issue more attention through her leadership on this congressional letter. By calling for prohibiting the slaughter of downed pigs, Escobar is fighting to protect not only animals but Americans from a serious threat to food safety.

The Suffering of Downed Pigs 

“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. Without regulations and real transparency, we aren’t even sure of the exact number of downed pigs suffering in our food system. 

These pigs are often “saved for last” and left lying in waste for hours. USDA records describe workers kicking, prodding, shocking, dragging, and beating these animals in attempts to make them stand and walk to the slaughter floor. 

Health Risks Associated with Downed Pigs

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.  

Take Action

Waiting until a public health catastrophe is wrong—we have seen the devastating impacts of diseases emerging from industrial animal agriculture, and we must address the threat posed by downed pigs before it is too late. Escobar continued:

Without regulations and transparency, the best estimates are that between 500,000 and one million downed pigs arrive at meat processing plants annually. I’m proud to lead a bipartisan letter to USDA Secretary Vilsack and Under Secretary Esteban urging them to implement rules and ensure downed pigs are permanently removed from the food supply.

Urge your representatives to support the Industrial Agriculture Accountability Act to help get its downed animal provision into the 2023 Farm Bill and make our nation’s food system safer for Americans and kinder to animals.

Policy reforms rely on caring and informed people like you to call on their legislators to act. Your elected officials work for you—by using your voice you can make meaningful, important change for farmed animals. Visit for how you can get involved.