WATKINS GLEN, NY -- April 20 -- In response to the Bush Administration's proposal to weaken the current ban on the slaughter of injured or "downed" cattle for human consumption, Farm Sanctuary, the nation's leading farm animal protection group, is calling upon the USDA to maintain its ban.
The issue of downed cattle vaulted to the forefront of American consciousness following the December 2003 discovery of mad cow disease in a downed cow slaughtered in Washington State. In response, then-secretary of the USDA, Ann Veneman, imposed a long-overdue ban on the slaughter of all downed cattle for human consumption-a ban the Bush Administration now hopes to water down.
"The Bush Administration's regressive proposal to allow the slaughter of some downed cattle presents a risk both for animals and for the American consumer," said Farm Sanctuary president Gene Bauston. "Not only does it mean increased suffering for untold numbers of injured cattle, but also it increases the chance that diseased meat may enter the human food supply."
According to Bauston, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns' current proposal to allow certain cattle -- those with broken limbs and those who are under 30 months old -- is misguided because it ignores the fact that there are many disease-driven reasons that a cow may fall and break her limbs -- including affliction with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease.
"It is very, very difficult for a veterinarian to differentiate the many reasons a cow may be non-ambulatory," says Jim Reynolds, a bovine veterinarian with the University of California. "There are metabolic and infectious causes as well as trauma and fractures and accurate diagnosis is usually not possible at the farm."
The USDA itself has acknowledged the connection between downed cattle and mad cow disease. As part of a 2004 lawsuit settlement with Farm Sanctuary, the USDA acknowledged that "studies from Europe appear to show that non-ambulatory cattle, or 'downed' cattle, have a greater incidence of BSE than other cattle, and, moreover, that the clinical signs of BSE cannot always be observed in cattle."
In 2004, when the USDA requested public comments on the issue of downed cattle slaughter, the agency received 22,000 comments. Of these, ninety-nine percent supported an all-out ban on the slaughter of downed cattle.
"The Bush Administration's proposal to weaken the downer ban flies in the face of the overwhelming public sentiment that suffering, downed cattle should not be dragged to the slaughter house," said Bauston. "It's a betrayal of public trust, and it's a betrayal of our moral obligation to treat animals humanely."
About Farm Sanctuary
Farm Sanctuary is the nation's leading farm animal protection organization. Since incorporating in 1986, Farm Sanctuary has worked to expose and stop cruel practices of the "food animal" industry through research and investigations, legal and legislative actions, public awareness projects, youth education and direct rescue and refuge efforts. Farm Sanctuary shelters in Watkins Glen, N.Y. and Orland, Calif. provide lifelong care for hundreds of rescued animals, who have become ambassadors for farm animals everywhere by educating visitors about the realities of factory farming. Additional information can be found at http://www.farmsanctuary.org and http://www.factoryfarming.org.