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

Cheryl LeahyAnimals, Cheryl Leahy, Legal Advocacy, News 66 Comments

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 66

  1. OMG, this is horrendous. We must stop this cruelty. It’s cruel enough to raise animals only to kill for human consumption, but for them to suffer is grossly inhumane.

  2. I don’t know why or how this is allowed to happen. I grew up on a farm. The animals had a healthy and happy life. This is just sad

  3. USDA is run by lobbyists and special interests that buy our Congress in one way or another. We scream about third world cruelty and America with our laws does relatively NOTHING, to protect the food in our markets! That is why they want the AG-Gag laws. To hide the cruelty in AMERICA! Shame on us!!!

  4. Thanks for shedding light on these issues. Quite maddening and heartbreaking. Please consider adding a link to such articles, so readers can take action directly.

  5. This is outrageous cruelty, I’m heartbroken just watching this. Please stop this horrific cruelty. How would any of these farmers like to stay in there with their pigs, while they suffocate?

  6. This needs to be stopped. The animal suffer horrendously whether they are going to the killing floor or now, that the “excess” needs to be disposed of. Absolutely disgusting. There has to be a better, more humane way!!! Let’s find it!!!

  7. As an Army nurse and a vegan, I am appalled and saddened by the horrific methods of mass slaughter and unspeakable suffering inflicted on these defenseless animals. I strongly support the petition to abolish these cruel methods. In addition, I am sickened by the USDA allowing such atrocities.

  8. I believe every life should be honored. Their is no need to kill breed eat them . Animals have souls. Just look into their eyes. Stop over breeding and killing them.

  9. 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.

  10. This is disgusting. I hope that people will move to plant based diets because there is such cruelty in modern farming mehtods.

  11. Being humane to domestic animals but not farm animals is against the essence of what it is to be a human being. How one can hug, kiss and care for their domestic 4 legged companions but can torture and murder a cow, pig, chicken, lamb, fish is beyond the scope of human understanding. In short any creature that can walk, crawl, swim or fly has the right to life to live as our domestic ones. I find no difference between cannibalism and meat-eating (meaters) just the degree, that’s all; flesh is flesh whether it be from a human or animal.

  12. Where are all the “progressives” and “intersectionalists” commenting on sites like this one?

    When social-justice activists ignore the injustices to other animals–our evolutionary kin–the only moral issue they seem to recognize is how exploiting them will benefit humans, the “alpha species”–propped up by speciesist Judeo-Christian tradition.

  13. This is really bad and hurts many souls.. it is so that they are treated as thing not living animals like us.. how cruel are we. Hurts me being a human and not able to take action toward it.

  14. You evil bastards!! 👿👿👿 stop this & factory farming! 😤😤😤 $$$ means more than your children’s lives! Shameful! 🖕🖕🖕🖕🖕

  15. this is disgusting, should be illegal, and I can’t believe there has to be an actual petition to enlighten these psychos that this is barbaric and unacceptable ! ! !

  16. Because I am aware of how animals are treated so cruelly there are many times I dare not read how bad things are. So, well done all those who do see it and advise others.

  17. Animals are such loving creatures why do you people feel the need to torture and murder them? You slaughter and murder animals more than what we can eat and most goes to waste in a DUMPSTER! You allow people to torture abuse and beat these sweet animals before you slaughter them! I wish hope and pray all of your ends will be such the same!

  18. Pingback: Global Animal Welfare — August 2020 | 4Earth Media Index

  19. Why is the Government not able to do anything to end this gruesome practice, in-spite of the petition and so many animal advocacy organizations fighting against it? What else can we do to stop the supply coming in? Can’t these poor innocent animals be moved to a sanctuary or left at a national park to live a life of freedom as due to the pandemic running slaughter houses has proven to be dangerous even for people?

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