AWI Petitions USDA to Make Slaughter More Humane

Washington, DC—The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) has submitted a petition to the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) requesting that the agency write regulations designed to decrease the needless suffering of animals during slaughter. AWI is asking that FSIS require all slaughter establishments to create and implement a comprehensive, written animal handling plan. AWI further requests that FSIS make other changes to the regulations to address some of the most frequent causes of inhumane handling and slaughter incidents, by requiring that all workers who have contact with animals be trained in humane handling, that stunning equipment be routinely tested and maintained, and that backup stunning devices be available in both the stunning and holding areas of every slaughter plant.

AWI’s petition is based on its review of more than 1,000 humane slaughter violations occurring at state and federally inspected slaughter plants from 2007 through 2012. AWI received records describing the incidents in response to more than one hundred Freedom of Information Act requests submitted to USDA and state departments of agriculture.

Eight years after USDA recommended that all slaughter establishments take a systematic approach to humane slaughter by developing a comprehensive, written animal handling plan, only 35 percent of federally inspected plants—and very few state inspected plants—had developed these plans. At present, USDA considers the development of a plan for handling and slaughtering animals to be at the discretion of the individual plants, and such a plan is typically not required until after one or more egregious incident has occurred, if at all. “It is disturbing that slaughterhouses are allowed to kill animals without having such a plan in place,” said Cathy Liss, president of AWI. “It is equally unacceptable that untrained employees are allowed to handle and slaughter the animals, and that routine testing of equipment used to stun animals is not required.”

Nearly 35 years have passed since USDA last amended its regulations for the purpose of making slaughter more humane. During that time, tens of thousands of incidents of inhumane slaughter have been observed and documented by inspection personnel. An analysis of some of these incidents by AWI identified a number of specific causes that occur with alarming frequency. “The common-sense amendments requested in the AWI petition address these reoccurring causes of inhumane handling and could significantly reduce the amount of needless suffering experienced by animals during slaughter,” said Liss.

About AWI:
The Animal Welfare Institute ( is a non-profit 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. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates and other important animal protection news.

Media Contact:
Dena Jones,, 202-446-2146

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