Clinic Files Lawsuit Against USDA over Slaughter of Sick, Injured Pigs
February 06, 2020
The Animal Law Litigation Clinic, representing animal protection groups, sued Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and the Department of Agriculture today for failing to protect pigs who are too sick or injured to walk at slaughterhouses, posing serious risks to animals and food safety.
Today’s lawsuit, filed in federal court in Rochester, New York, challenges the agency’s failure to follow Congress’s longstanding mandates regarding these “downed” or “non-ambulatory” animals, as well as its recent denial of a petition to ban their slaughter. Plaintiffs are Farm Sanctuary, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Animal Outlook, Animal Welfare Institute, Compassion in World Farming, Farm Forward, and Mercy For Animals. They are represented by the Animal Law Litigation Clinic at the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark Law School.
Every year, well over half a million pigs arrive at U.S. slaughterhouses too sick or injured to stand or walk. Downed pigs are at a heightened risk of carrying a host of human-transmissible pathogens, including Listeria, Campylobacter, Salmonella, swine flu, and Yersinia. They are also at a heightened risk of inhumane handling, including being excessively electro-shocked, prodded, kicked, shoved, and dragged by workers attempting to force them to move.
“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.”
In 2002, Congress amended the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act—which governs not just the slaughter of animals but also their handling at the slaughterhouse—to direct the Secretary of Agriculture to investigate and report to Congress on a host of issues related to nonambulatory livestock, including humane handling, and, based on this report, to promulgate any regulations needed to protect these animals. Despite the passage of nearly two decades, there is no indication that the USDA has ever reported on nonambulatory pigs, even though pigs comprise approximately 75% of livestock slaughter in the U.S.
“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.