Farm Sanctuary, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Animal Outlook, Animal Welfare Institute, Compassion in World Farming, Farm Forward, and Mercy For Animals led by the Animal Law Litigation Clinic at the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark Law School have filed a lawsuit against the Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and the Department of Agriculture.
Filed in federal court in Rochester, New York the suit is challenging the USDA’s outright failure to follow the longstanding mandates put in place by Congress that is supposed to regulate so-called “downed” or “non-ambulatory” animals.
These sick, injured and dying pigs that are being dragged or forced into slaughterhouses are a serious health risk to not only the animals themselves but also to the humans consuming their diseased flesh.
Over half a million pigs every single year in the United States are taken to slaughterhouses far too ill or injured to even stand or walk to their deaths on their own.
These “downed” pigs are much more likely to be carrying a litany of infectious diseases and pathogens that affect human health.
Listeria, Campylobacter, Salmonella, swine flu, and Yersinia are all at risk of being placed into the food supply since the USDA and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue don’t properly enforce the rules put in place decades ago to stop these infectious pathogens from making the jump to humans.
Of course, the animals themselves are at much higher risk of inhumane handling procedures as they are repeatedly shoved, dragged, prodded, kicked, and shocked in attempts to get the scared and sick animals to move towards the kill lines.
“The federal government continues to treat pigs as industrial commodities to be produced as cheaply as possible, without regard for animal welfare or consumer safety,” said Irene Au-Young, a student in the Animal Law Litigation Clinic who is representing the plaintiffs.
“The law doesn’t allow this total disregard, and this lawsuit will hold the government accountable for forcing sick and injured animals to the killing floor and onto the dinner plates of unsuspecting consumers.” Au-Young continued
The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act was amended by Congress back in 2002. The act which manages not only the slaughter of animals but also their handling in the slaughterhouses directs the Secretary of Agriculture to lead investigations and report to Congress about problems that are occurring.
This act was put into place to stop “non-ambulatory” “livestock” animals from being slaughtered for food, to promote “humane handling” and based on this report, to “promulgate any regulations needed to protect these animals.”
An act that was passed almost two decades ago has yet to be put into practice by the USDA as there are no reports or investigations by the agency or its leadership that shows they have ever reported on “downed” pigs despite the fact that pigs make up most of the “livestock” slaughtered in the United States at about 75% of animals killed.
“The Department of Agriculture violates the very laws it is entrusted with enforcing by encouraging cruel and inhumane handling of weak and sick pigs,” said Hira Jaleel, the second Animal Law Litigation student representing the plaintiffs.