In 2018, Animal Outlook revealed the horrors of high-speed chicken slaughter with undercover footage of a facility operating under a waiver allowing it to slaughter up to 175 birds per minute. The Trump administration proposed a rule to make this reckless, dangerous speed the norm by allowing all facilities to run slaughter lines about 25 percent faster than the current regulation. Last month, Animal Outlook delivered testimony to the Office of Management and Budget opposing the rule.
This week, in a victory for animals, workers and consumers, the USDA withdrew the rule.
While killing 140 birds per minute is still too much, increasing this cap would have been wildly dangerous for all involved. Even now on slaughter lines, workers are elbow-to-elbow, often unable to social distance during a pandemic while they risk injury with repetitive motions for hours at a time. In order to keep up with the line, they are often denied breaks, even to use the bathroom.
The new rule, if it was anything like the existing high-speed waiver program, would have decreased federal oversight of slaughterhouses, instead making plant employees responsible for inspections that should ensure food safety and detect contamination. Such a change would have had the profit-driven plants governing themselves.
This is to say nothing of the grave dangers posed to animals under faster line speeds. Already put through the hell of being shackled upside down to have their throats cut, our investigation of high-speed plant Amick Farms revealed workers taking inhumane and dangerous shortcuts to maintain the breakneck pace, as well as equipment breakdowns trapping birds in electrified water baths to drown.
Though the proposed rule was withdrawn, plants like Amick with high-speed waivers continue to operate at dangerous speeds, and the industry continues to lobby for the removal of speed caps entirely in pig processing plants.
But we’re fighting back against the USDA’s attempts to increase line speeds and turn over inspections to plant employees for both chicken and pig slaughterhouses. In December 2019, Animal Outlook and six other animal protection organizations filed a lawsuit challenging the USDA’s decision to reduce oversight at pig slaughterhouses and eliminate line speed caps at slaughterhouses. We’ve also filed a separate lawsuit against the USDA over a similar plan to deregulate chicken slaughterhouses.
Despite the USDA withdrawing the proposal for faster line speeds in chicken plants, high-speed slaughter remains a real and dire threat to animal welfare as well as food and worker safety. You can add your voice to this urgent issue simply by signing and sharing our petitions to end high-speed slaughter of both chickens and pigs.
Thank you for working with us to protect farmed animals by exposing the truth and inspiring change.