Emergency Legal Petition Filed with USDA to End Cruel Farm “Depopulation” Methods

Cheryl Leahy Animals, Legal Advocacy, News 1 Comment

Ventilation shutdown, water-based foam methods among the cruelest ways to kill farmed animals

A coalition led by the Animal Legal Defense Fund has filed an emergency petition with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The petition seeks to prevent COVID-19 relief funds, resources and any other forms of support from facilitating or compensating for the costs of ventilation shutdown or water-based foam “depopulation” – the mass killing of animals on factory farms. In addition, the petition seeks to withhold COVID-19 relief funds, resources and any other forms of support from integrators, processors and meatpackers that order or allow these depopulation methods.

Ventilation shutdown is industry speak for shutting off all fans and closing vents to create an airtight environment. This causes animals to suffocate and bake alive in rising temperatures over multiple hours. In some circumstances, steam pumped into the building speeds the process. In water-based foam depopulation, typically used to kill birds, foam suffocates the animals over an extended period of time.

Backups on factory farms

COVID-19 has sickened thousands of slaughterhouse workers across the country. Many slaughterhouses have had to shut down for periods of time and slow their processing rates. This has resulted in a backup of millions of animals on factory farms. As such, this backlog leads to the mass killing of animals. In an effort to maximize profits, the industry’s business model leaves no room to accommodate supply chain delays. In this model, new animals arrive at farms just in time to replace those who have reached slaughter weight. 

It’d be shocking to the public conscience to learn of the double whammy here. Big animal agribusiness uses barbaric practices simply because the animals are losing market value due to a brittle and centralized business model. The USDA subsidizes these practices. Is this what we want our tax dollars supporting, especially during a pandemic?

Some of the cruelest depopulation methods, like ventilation shutdown —  recently revealed to have occurred at Iowa Select Farms — can leave animals suffering for many hours before they suffocate or are cooked alive. 

Additionally, the petition requests that the USDA create affirmative and enforceable standards for depopulation. It also requests that the agency establish an online database of animal agriculture industry recipients of COVID-19 relief.

Depopulation Due to COVID-19 Likely to Continue

The situation: Slaughterhouses backed up for months and corporate and government policies forcing workers to stand close together on fast-moving slaughter lines. The result: The virus will likely continue raging in these facilities. This will lead to more temporary closures, supply-chain disruptions, and gruesome depopulations, all culminating in the animal agriculture industry turning to the USDA for monetary relief for a problem of its own making.

Coalition members

The Animal Legal Defense Fund, Animal Equality, Animal Outlook, Animal Place, Association of Irritated Residents, Center for Biological Diversity, Compassion in World Farming, Farm Forward, Farm Sanctuary, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future,  PETA, The Humane League, Woodstock Sanctuary, World Animal Protection 

Comments 1

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    What a sick cold world the agi industry is. Killing is just so easy for them and the crueler the better.
    No wonder there is a rise in going Vegan or Vegetarian.
    I feel for all those innocent terrified animals and hope in the near future people will look at plant based food
    as the only way to go .
    RIP all the innocent victims of our over eating humans.

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