Mercy For Animals Joins Lawsuit Against the USDA for Failing to Protect Pigs

Mercy For Animals has joined forces with fellow animal protection groups to sue Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and the Department of Agriculture for failing to protect sick and injured pigs, which endangers both animals and our food supply.

Well over half a million pigs per year are estimated to arrive at U.S. slaughterhouses too sick or injured to stand or walk. Often kept in holding pens, these animals are unable to rise from feces-ridden floors before being slaughtered. Referred to as “downed pigs,” they are at heightened risk of inhumane handling, including being excessively electro-shocked, prodded, kicked, shoved, and dragged by workers attempting to force them to move.

Downed pigs are also at elevated risk of carrying swine flu and a host of human-transmissible pathogens, including listeria, campylobacter, salmonella, and yersinia.


In 2002, Congress amended the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, which governs not just the slaughter of animals but also their handling at the slaughterhouse, to direct the secretary of agriculture to investigate and report to Congress on numerous issues related to sick or injured farmed animals, including humane handling, and to create any regulations needed to protect them. Nearly two decades have passed, yet there is no indication that the USDA has ever reported on downed pigs, even though pigs account for about 75 percent of livestock slaughter in the United States. (The USDA does not consider chickens and turkeys to be livestock.)

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Rochester, New York, challenges the agency’s failure to follow Congress’s long-standing mandates regarding “downed” animals, as well as its recent denial of a petition to ban their slaughter. Along with Mercy For Animals, the plaintiffs are Farm Sanctuary, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Animal Outlook, Animal Welfare Institute, Compassion in World Farming, and Farm Forward. They are represented by the Animal Law Litigation Clinic at the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark Law School.

Leah Garcés, president of Mercy For Animals, stated:
Bringing sick and injured pigs to the killing room floor is not just horrific for these animals—it also puts consumers’ health at risk. By failing to comply with Congress’s mandates, the USDA is risking the spread of human-transmissible pathogens.
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