In April, a federal court ruled against an element of a 2019 US Department of Agriculture rule that removed limits on line speeds at pig slaughter facilities. Judge Joan Ericksen of the US District Court for the District of Minnesota ruled that the department failed to consider the effect increased speeds would have on worker health and safety. While the court vacated this element of the rule, other aspects of the 2019 rule remain in place. It is unclear whether the USDA will continue to seek this line speed increase, given that it recently revoked a similar rule allowing poultry line speeds of up to 175 birds per minute.
Increased line speeds have the potential to negatively affect not only worker safety, but also the welfare of pigs at slaughter, as workers have less time to perform each task, including moving live animals and rendering them insensible to pain before slaughter. Faster line speeds can also make it difficult for plant workers to identify animals who haven’t been successfully stunned—meaning some animals might make it to processing while still conscious. Because of this, AWI opposes any plans to increase line speeds.