Animal Welfare Groups Ask USDA to Ban Slaughter of Downer Pigs

AWI, along with several other animal advocacy groups, filed a rulemaking petition with USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) under the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act and the Federal Meat Inspection Act to prevent the slaughter of non-ambulatory disabled (a.k.a. downer) pigs. The petition asks USDA to amend 9 C.F.R. § 309.3, which relates to dying or disabled livestock, to add a provision that “non-ambulatory disabled pigs that are offered for slaughter must be condemned and humanely euthanized.”

Such disabled pigs are more prone to infestation with Salmonella and Yersinia enterocolitica bacteria, as well as other serious pathogens, as they are kept in holding pens longer and exposed to more fecal matter due to their inability to rise from the ground. In addition, prompt euthanasia of downer pigs would create an incentive for gentler animal handling, which results in significantly fewer such incapacitated pigs than aggressive handling. Additionally, the current system of ante-mortem inspection decreases the efficiency of FSIS inspectors and diverts attention from other inspection activities.

This petition follows a rule promulgated by FSIS in March 2009 that banned the slaughter of downer cattle to “ensure effective implementation of inspection and humane handling requirements.” In addition, in March 2013, FSIS granted a petition calling for the prohibition of slaughter of downer veal calves for similar reasons.

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