Pigs are intelligent, affectionate animals. But at factory farms and slaughterhouses they are routinely subjected to horrific cruelty until the moment they’re killed. Some become too sick or injured to stand or walk. Mercy For Animals, as part of a coalition of organizations and activists, is confronting the USDA over the treatment of these “downed” pigs.
Each year, more than a half million pigs arrive at U.S. slaughterhouses so sick or injured that they can’t stand. Mercy For Animals investigators have documented downed pigs in around a dozen undercover investigations. USDA records, obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, describe slaughterhouse workers kicking, prodding, shocking, dragging, and beating these already-disabled animals in an attempt to make them stand and walk.
Downed pigs spend much of their time lying in piles of waste, unable to move or free themselves. Slaughterhouse workers may “save them for last,” forcing them to suffer in this position for several hours while other pigs are slaughtered. Aside from making the animals miserable, this increases risk of transmitting Salmonella, the swine flu virus, and other pathogens that can infect humans.
Despite the clear risks to both nonhuman animals and humans, the federal government has failed to act. With representation from the Animal Law Litigation Clinic at Lewis & Clark Law School, Mercy For Animals has joined Farm Sanctuary, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Animal Outlook, Animal Welfare Institute, Compassion in World Farming, and Farm Forward to take action. Early this year, we sued the USDA and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue in federal court, challenging their failure to ban the slaughter of downed pigs and to submit a long-overdue report to Congress on the issue.
While the lawsuit is ongoing, we continue to push the USDA directly. On Tuesday, our coalition presented testimony at a USDA hearing on Salmonella risk. Brittany Rowe, a law student from Lewis & Clark Law School, explained the close connection between slaughter of downed pigs and increased risk of Salmonella in humans.
We at Mercy For Animals urge the USDA to do the safe and less cruel thing by requiring downed pigs to be euthanized rather than slaughtered for human consumption. This simple change will align the rules for downed pigs with those for downed cows (who currently must be euthanized) while protecting human health and sparing hundreds of thousands of animals additional pain and suffering.
We can all make a difference for animals abused by the meat industry by choosing more plant-based foods. Get your FREE Vegetarian Starter Guide today.