Animal Welfare Groups Warn USDA Pig Slaughter Rule Will Risk Animal Welfare

Tuesday, July 25, 2017
Photo from Flickr by Dan Belanescu

Washington, DCThe Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) condemn the USDA’s imminent plan to allow pig slaughterhouses to kill pigs at even faster speeds, making animals vulnerable to rougher handling and to being butchered while still conscious.

The USDA appears ready to propose adoption of the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) Inspection Models Project (or “HIMP”) for pig slaughter. The primary feature of the proposed rule, which is currently being reviewed by the Office of Management and Budget, is the shift of certain food safety responsibilities from federal inspection personnel to slaughter plant workers. The HIMP proposed rule is also expected to permit increased line speeds, from an already astonishing rate of approximately 1,100 pigs slaughtered per hour, to approximately 1,300 pigs per hour.

While the food safety effects of the proposed change have been publicly debated for some time, the impact of HIMP on the pigs themselves has received far less attention. The ASPCA and AWI oppose HIMP due to the negative impacts of higher slaughter speeds on animal welfare. Nearly 120 million pigs are slaughtered each year in the United States.

High-speed production jeopardizes the welfare of pigs at slaughter in three ways:

  1. Under the demands of the proposed rule, plant workers may be pressured to move animals at a faster rate, from the time the pigs arrive at the slaughterhouse to the time they are slaughtered.Employing excessive force to drive pigs, including the use of electric prods and other abusive tools, causes pain and distress to the animals.

    The following example was supplied by a USDA inspector at a HIMP plant in Minnesota: “I noticed that the animals on the east side were being moved faster than a normal walking speed. The hogs were exiting the circle pen at a run, and all were being prodded with a plastic paddle to maintain this speed.” In another incident at the same HIMP plant, a worker was observed hitting one pig in the face with a rattle paddle and then electrically prodding the same animal in the head. Another animal handler is seen “repeatedly slapping pigs in the crowd pen with a plastic paddle using excessive force.”
     
  2. The proposed rule would shorten the length of the stun used to render pigs insensible to pain before slaughter.Large pig slaughterhouses use either electric or gas (carbon dioxide) methods for stunning, and in both cases a shorter exposure time may result in pigs regaining consciousness prior to being butchered.

    For example, a USDA inspector at one pork plant in Illinois noted that the company was forced to slow the CO2 stunning cycle “to allow more time for animals to be exposed to the gas” after every third or fourth animal shackled on the line showed signs of regaining consciousness.
     
  3. The proposed rule would prevent plant workers and government inspectors from being able to identify pigs who have not been adequately stunned and are still conscious on the processing line.It is imperative that conscious animals be recognized immediately to minimize the amount of animal suffering that occurs. The greater the number of pigs being slaughtered, and the faster the line is moving, the more difficult it is for plant personnel to stop the process and re-stun the animal. Failure to promptly intervene may result in a pig drowning in the scald tank or having limbs removed while still conscious.
     

Because faster line speeds raise the potential that pigs will be inhumanely handled or slaughtered, our organizations strongly urge the USDA to eliminate any planned line speed increase from the HIMP proposed rule.  

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Media Contact:
Amey Owen, (202) 446-2128, amey@awionline.org

About the Animal Welfare Institute
The Animal Welfare Institute (www.awionline.org) is a nonprofit charitable organization founded in 1951 and dedicated to reducing animal suffering caused by people. AWI engages policymakers, scientists, industry, and the public to achieve better treatment of animals everywhere – in the laboratory, on the farm, in commerce, at home, and in the wild. For more information, visit www.awionline.org.

About the ASPCA
Founded in 1866, the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) is the first animal welfare organization in North America and serves as the nation’s leading voice for animals. More than two million supporters strong, the ASPCA’s mission is to provide effective means for the prevention of cruelty to animals throughout the United States. As a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit corporation, the ASPCA is a national leader in the areas of anti-cruelty, community outreach and animal health services. For more information, please visit www.ASPCA.org, and be sure to follow the ASPCA on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.