In 1958, Senator Hubert Humphrey and Congressman W.R. Poage shepherded the Humane Slaughter Act through the national legislative process. Over forty years later, with great disappointment, it is increasingly evident that the law is being flouted at large slaughter plants across the country. Today, corporate slaughter lines move with such rapidity that every animal cannot be stunned properly and rendered unconscious before being hoisted by a hind leg, violently skinned and brutally dismembered.
To address this horrifying situation, Senator Peter G. Fitzgerald (R, IL) has sponsored a concurrent resolution "Expressing the sense of the Congress that the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act of 1958 should be fully enforced so as to prevent the needless suffering of animals."
Although enacted over forty years ago, public interest over this issue still runs high today. In April, a Washington Post investigative report entitled "Modern Meat/A Brutal Harvest," revealed that there are "repeated violations of the Humane Slaughter Act at dozens of slaughterhouses" and that USDA inspectors have little support from USDA in enforcing the law. According to the paper, "the USDA has stopped tracking the number of violations and dropped all mentions of humane slaughter from its list of rotating tasks for inspectors." Senator Fitzgerald, in his statement on the Senate floor, lamented the practical impact of the USDA's futility in inspecting facilities and recording violations: "This is simply unacceptable. We cannot manage nor regulate what we do not monitor nor measure."
Thus, S. Con. Res. 45 requests that Secretary of Agriculture Ann Veneman fully enforce the 1958 law to prevent needless animal suffering, resume tracking Humane Slaughter Act violations and report the USDA's findings to Congress annually. It further reiterates, "it should be the policy of the United States that the slaughtering of livestock and the handling of livestock in connection with slaughter shall be carried out only by humane methods." Representatives Constance Morella (R, MD) and Elton Gallegly (R, CA) have introduced a companion resolution in the House of Representatives, H. Con. Res. 175.
During the Congressional deliberations on the original humane slaughter bill in the '50s, Congressman Poage noted that the meat packing industry, "up until a few months ago [had] done practically nothing to meet the requirement of human kindness, and even decency in the slaughtering of animals." It's truly sad that Congress has to remind the USDA and slaughterhouse industry again of the need for basic compassion. The cruelty inflicted on animals in 2001 is even worse than it was when Poage lamented.