USDA Seeks Comments on Disabled Livestock Petition Submitted by Farm Sanctuary

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Meredith Turner, Farm Sanctuary, 646-369-6212, mturner@farmsanctuary.org

USDA Seeks Comments on Disabled Livestock Petition Submitted by Farm Sanctuary

Nation’s Leading Farm Animal Protection Organization Demands Federal Regulations to Curb Inhumane Handling of Sick and Injured Animals

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. - The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is asking for public comments on a Petition for Rulemaking submitted by Farm Sanctuary (www.farmsanctuary.org), the nation’s leading farm animal protection organization,requesting that regulations be extended, beyond cattle, to prohibit the slaughter of non-ambulatory pigs, goats, sheep and other farm animals. Non-ambulatory livestock, commonly referred to as "downers" or "downed" animals, are animals too ill or injured to stand or walk unassisted. According to findings released by the USDA in 2005, the annual number of downed sheep in the United States was estimated at 39,000, downed goats 36,000, and although there are no USDA statistics, industry reports estimate there are approximately 850,000 downed pigs every year.

The petition urges that downed pigs, goats, and sheep be humanely euthanized and not sent to slaughter for human consumption. Transporting, handling and slaughtering these incapacitated animals is inhumane, and as long as they can be used for human food there is an economic incentive to engage in these cruel practices. In addition, the slaughter of ill and injured animals for human consumption poses a serious human health and safety risk, as downed animals are more likely to be infected with and transmit food-borne illnesses. Several non-compliance reports demonstrating workers shocking, prodding, dragging and otherwise abusing downed animals at federally-inspected facilities are referenced, and the petition concludes that if slaughter were prohibited, facilities would have an incentive to treat animals better to prevent them from becoming ill, injured and downed in the first place.

A recent undercover investigation at a federally-inspected facility showing slaughterhouse workers kicking cows, prodding them with the blades of a forklift, jabbing them repeatedly in the eyes and other sensitive areas with electric shock prods, and forcing water up their nostrils with a hose in attempts to make them to rise to their feet, led the USDA, in its 2009 rulemaking regarding non-ambulatory cattle, to recognize the enormous potential for abuse and inhumane treatment when animals become downed.

“We appreciate that theFood Safety and Inspection Servicehas finally made good on its long stated intention to prevent downed cattle from entering the food supply, and that it is now considering other species,” says Farm Sanctuary President and Co-Founder Gene Baur. “Pigs, goats and sheep are highly sensitive, intelligent creatures who are equally capable of experiencing pain and distress during inhumane handling as cattle and should be afforded the same protections from abuse. We hope FSIS will take the logical next step by extending 9 C.F.R. section 309.3(e) to all farm animals. The USDA has an obligation to ensure the humane treatment of animals at slaughter facilities and this regulation is 100% necessary to carry out that responsibility.”

According to a 2003 Zogby poll, 77% of Americans find slaughter of non-ambulatory animals for human consumption unacceptable. Since 1986, Farm Sanctuary has advocated an end to downed animal abuse and urged the USDA to ban their marketing through the organization’s No Downers Campaign. During the past quarter-century, the organization has worked for passage of the first laws in this country to end the marketing of downed animals, achieved the first cruelty convictions of slaughterhouses and stockyards, and rescued and rehabilitated downed animals.

Comments on the proposal will be accepted through April 8, 2011. A copy of the petition is available here.

The public is encouraged to join Farm Sanctuary in urging the USDA to extend the 2009 “no downer” rule to include downed pigs, goats, sheep, and other farm animals.

To speak with Farm Sanctuary President and Co-Founder Gene Baur or receive images/b-roll of downed animals, please contact Meredith Turner at 646-369-6212 or mturner@farmsanctuary.org.

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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 institutional reforms, 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.

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