The USDA has been particularly terrible to animals this week. First, it officially removed Obama-era rules protecting animals at organic farms, and this Wednesday it denied Mercy For Animals’ petition to include poultry under the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. This is the only federal law addressing the treatment of farmed animals at slaughter, but the USDA has created a giant loophole that excludes all birds from protection.
Since birds account for 98 percent of all animals killed for food in the United States, the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act protects just 2 percent of the animals slaughtered here every year. The remaining 9 billion are chickens, turkeys, and other birds who have no federal legal protections during their entire lives. As in, zero protections. Let that sink in a minute.
Our petition, which proposed regulations to close this loophole and protect birds from the worst forms of torture, has been denied by the Trump administration’s USDA. It was supported by over 250,000 citizens and a broad coalition of advocates and organizations, including the Government Accountability Project, Oxfam, Compassion in World Farming, Farm Forward, Compassion Over Killing, PETA, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund. The USDA’s decision comes on the heels of the department’s announcement that it will let chicken slaughterhouses increase their already-reckless line speeds to kill even more birds.
Modern poultry slaughter is dirty, dangerous, and unimaginably cruel. The live-shackle method of slaughter—which is standard in the poultry industry—leads to increased risk of fecal contamination of meat, much higher injury rates among slaughterhouse workers, and birds having their throats slit while still conscious and able to feel pain.
See for yourself:
The USDA’s own poultry slaughter records document chickens slashed across the face or chest by the kill blade because they were improperly hung, more than 100 chickens at a time scalded alive in near-boiling water, and bruised bodies of birds discarded because they were unfit for food. Currently, there are no federal regulations for humane handling of poultry, and USDA inspectors have no meaningful enforcement authority when they see animal cruelty.
The USDA’s decision to exclude poultry from the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act is a myopic and misguided interpretation of the law and puts consumers, slaughterhouse workers, and animals in jeopardy. It is appalling that the USDA cares more about lining the pockets of the poultry industry than the welfare of animals and the safety of the American public.
While this heartless decision is disappointing, we cannot give up. MFA will pursue all available legal options to overturn it. Sign up for MFA’s easy email action alerts to learn how you can help. And remember, the best thing we can all do to protect animals is to leave them off our plates and end the abuse of animals for food once and for all.