The Humane Society of the United States Sues to Keep Sick and
Injured Cows Out of Food Supply; USDA Loophole Contributed to the
Largest Beef Recall in U.S. History
FEB. 27--The Humane Society of the United States today filed
suit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to close a
dangerous loophole in the agency's regulations that contributed
to the recent recall of more than 143 million pounds of beef,
much of which was fed to schoolchildren in at least 40 states and
the District of Columbia.
The recall was initiated after an HSUS investigation
documented shocking acts of animal cruelty to non-ambulatory or
îîdowner'' cattle at a slaughterhouse in Chino, Calif.
USDA has in recent weeks assured the public that sick and
crippled cattle are not allowed to enter the food supply, but the
agency's regulations actually contradict that assertion, said
Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the
îîUnless we want yet another dramatic food scare … further
eroding consumer confidence in beef and costing the private
sector and the federal government tens of millions of dollars …
we should not hesitate to close this legal loophole and establish
an unambiguous no-downer policy that will also help protect
crippled animals from egregious abuse.''
On Thursday, Pacelle is scheduled to testify before a Senate
subcommittee examining the issues surrounding the case. He will
call on Congress to pass legislation to strengthen the nation's
farm animal welfare laws.
Because downer cattle are at a heightened risk for bovine
spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, or îîmad cow disease'') and other
foodborne pathogens, USDA issued an emergency rule in 2004 to
prevent downed cattle from being slaughtered for human
However, in 2007, the agency quietly reversed course and
relaxed its rules to permit some crippled cows to be slaughtered
for human consumption. That loophole … which fails to adequately
prevent the slaughter of animals who are violently forced onto
their feet long enough to pass inspection, as well some animals
who go down after initial inspection … precipitated some of the
most disturbing incidents documented by an HSUS investigator at
the Hallmark slaughter plant, including employees routinely
beating cows to try to make them stand, repeatedly electrocuting
cows in the face and eyes, and almost inconceivable incidents in
which they rammed animals with forklift blades and dragged them
The lawsuit alleges that the downer loophole is irrational and
inconsistent with the USDA's obligations to ensure humane
handling and food safety under the Humane Methods of Slaughter
Act and the Federal Meat Inspection Act.
The suit also alleges that the loophole was promulgated in
2007 without adequate public notice and comment under the federal
Administrative Procedure Act.
îîThe school lunch program should be providing safe and
healthy meals for our children, not serving up sick animals or
promoting animal cruelty,'' said Diana Crossman, a longtime HSUS
member and mother of two children in Los Angeles County public
îîUSDA is supposed to protect our children, and that doesn't
mean telling us one thing and doing something else about allowing
sick animals in the food supply.''
The Federal Meat Inspection Act is designed to protect
consumers by preventing meat that is îîadulterated'' … not fit
for human consumption … from entering the food supply.
The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act requires that îîthe
handling of livestock in connection with slaughter shall be
carried out only by humane methods.''
Downed cattle may be at higher risk of contamination with
foodborne pathogens such as E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella, as
well as the pathogens that cause mad cow disease.
Eating meat from cattle infected with mad cow disease is
believed to cause an invariably fatal human neurological disease
known as variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD). It may take
years for symptoms to develop after eating contaminated meat.
For more info and to see the video that started the whole thing, click here. But be ready for some very disturbing images.