high-speed slaughter

The Horrors of High-Speed Slaughter

Cheryl Leahy Animals, Environment, Health, Investigations, News, Veg Eating Leave a Comment

Over the years, Animal Outlook has worked against the expansion of high-speed slaughter. We’ve investigated slaughterhouses, urged public policy reform, educated the public and sued the USDA. Why? To oppose a high-speed slaughter program that reduces government oversight and allows slaughter lines to run at dangerously fast speeds. 

The program, known as HIMP, increases food safety risks and puts workers and animals alike in danger. The USDA wants to expand this system nationwide, removing the caps on slaughter of animals in the pork industry from the already breakneck speed of 1,106 pigs per hour to no limit, and in the poultry industry from 140 birds per minute to 175. 

For almost two decades, Animal Outlook has gone undercover in factory farms and slaughterhouses to expose the shocking truth. This includes two investigations of high-speed slaughterhouses: Quality Pork Processors and Amick Farms

The undercover footage that revealed the cruelties and dangers associated with high-speed slaughter could only be recorded and shared thanks to generous supporters like you. And now through the end of the year, all donations will be doubled as part of our 25th anniversary celebration.

USDA: Out of sight, out of mind

high-speed slaughterOur undercover footage from Quality Pork Processors is particularly shocking: As they head to the kill floor, pigs are beaten, shocked and even stunned improperly so they are not ensured to be unconscious before being put into tanks of scalding hot water. Workers drag those too sick or injured to walk to their deaths. 

And this happens while the USDA, by design, isn’t looking. Despite widespread criticism — even by the USDA’s Office of Inspector General — HIMP has never been fully evaluated by the USDA. While deregulating the slaughter process, the program also reduces inspector oversight. This makes watchdog groups like Animal Outlook one of the only things standing between animals and these unconscionable cruelties. Will you stand with us in fighting for these animals?  

At Quality Pork Processors, one slaughterhouse worker told our investigator, “If the USDA was around, they could shut us down.” The USDA reviewed our investigation footage and agreed: “The actions depicted in the video occurred at times when USDA inspection personnel were not performing verifications. Had these actions been observed by inspectors, they would have resulted in immediate regulatory action against the plant.” In other words, since the USDA inspectors did not directly witness what we documented on video, they won’t take any enforcement action against it. Out of sight, out of mind. 

And that’s exactly the point of HIMP: the USDA isn’t really around, and isn’t really watching. This, and other, facilities take full advantage of the lack of oversight. We even documented a supervisor literally sleeping on the job when he should have been overseeing the stunning station. His job? To ensure animals were not conscious when they went through the slaughter and scalding process. Your help is needed to hold animal abusers accountable. 

Lawsuit demands more oversight in slaughterhouses

In December 2019, Animal Outlook and six other animal protection organizations filed a lawsuit against the USDA challenging the agency’s decision to reduce oversight at pig slaughterhouses and eliminate line speeds on slaughterhouses. Increased handling violations, including failure to properly render pigs unconscious before workers slit their throats slit and drop them into scalding tanks, often result from high-speed slaughter.

The lawsuit also challenges the USDA’s decision to remove and relocate federal inspectors in slaughterhouses. Federal law requires that agency inspectors ensure workers don’t cruelly handle, drag or beat animals at slaughterhouses, and that sick animals don’t enter the food supply.

The USDA has long asserted that its inspections are the most effective way to protect against disease epidemics that could devastate animal populations and threaten public health. Yet, at the same time the agency is preparing for the possibility of a disastrous outbreak of African swine fever—which is expected to decimate up to a quarter of the world’s pig population—it is replacing its front-line inspectors with untrained and overworked slaughterhouse staff. In related litigation, we and six other animal protection organizations have filed a lawsuit against Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and the USDA for failing to protect pigs who are too sick or injured to walk at slaughterhouses, posing additional, serious risks to animals and food safety.

The slaughter of pigs — a cruel, grueling, and fast process for both animals and humans — treats workers and animals as cogs in a money-making machine. Speeding up the slaughter lines and putting oversight in the hands of the industry means an even darker reality for millions of animals in their last moments of life. It also creates a dangerous and reckless system for workers and the public.

High-speed slaughter: Dark reality for pigs, chickens, workers

high-speed slaughterSadly, high speed slaughter reaches beyond pig facilities; it happens in chicken slaughterhouses too. Our investigation of high-speed chicken slaughter plant Amick Farms revealed workers punching, shoving and throwing birds down the fast-paced kill line. Other birds slowly drowned in electrified stunning baths during equipment breakdowns. Our investigator also documented evidence of birds scalded alive. We can’t let this suffering continue — will you join us in exposing what these animals are forced to go through?

Amick Farms and the USDA have yet to admit the disastrous effects of running kill lines at recklessly fast speeds. With lines moving at nearly three birds per second, workers often make critical errors as they rush to keep up.

Amick Farms is just one of nearly 40 slaughterhouses that the USDA allows to operate at such recklessly high speeds. In 2018, the agency published criteria to allow plants to apply for waivers to speed up their already dangerously fast kill lines. And it’s been issuing these waivers ever since—despite opposition from the more than 200,000 of you who signed our petition.

Suing the USDA — again

In February 2020, we joined a coalition of animal protection organizations to sue the USDA — again. This time, we’re arguing that the agency violated federal law by circumventing the mandatory rule-making process. It also failed to appropriately consider necessary animal welfare, worker safety and environmental factors before establishing a waiver process.

These USDA programs, promoted under the guise of “modernization” of slaughter, profits animal agriculture giants. These programs allow them to kill more animals, more quickly. This comes at the expense of millions of workers, consumers, and of course, the animals themselves. 

Stopping them is only possible with your support: Please make a quick, tax-deductible donation to Animal Outlook today. Every dollar goes toward our trailblazing work for farmed animals, and no amount is too small. And now through the end of the year, your donations will be doubled thanks to the support of five donors. These generous donors established a matching campaign as part of our 25th anniversary celebration.

Thank you for standing strong for compassion.

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