HSUS, Farm Sanctuary Petition FSIS on Downer Livestock

February 8, 2011 11:33 PM

Public comments are being sought by USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) on issues surrounding the slaughter of downed or non-ambulatory livestock based on petitions from the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) and the Farm Sanctuary.

Non-ambulatory veal calves are the target of the HSUS petition as they asked FSIS to revoke the exemption that allowed downer/non-ambulatory veal calves to be slaughtered for human food if they are set-aside and cared for and later become ambulatory. HSUS argued that the exemption gave companies the incentive to push these non-ambulatory veal calves to be ambulatory so they could be slaughtered.

In a Federal Register notice, FSIS they have "tentatively decided to grant the HSUS petition." However, FSIS said, "before initiating rulemaking, the Agency has determined that it would be useful to solicit public input on the issues raised in the petition. Therefore, the Agency is issuing this notice to requests comments on the HSUS petition and the potential impact of granting the petition."

The second petition from Farm Sanctuary seeks to apply the rules preventing the slaughter of downer/non-ambulatory cattle to be applied to all livestock species. Their argument is similar -- that slaughter facilities have a financial incentive to get non-ambulatory livestock into the slaughter mix. But they also argue that such actions could increase the risk for humans to get tainted meat.

However, unlike the HSUS petition, FSIS stated that it "has not yet determined how it intends to respond to the requested action."

Further, FSIS said they are "now considering measures that may be necessary to ensure that non-ambulatory disabled livestock other than cattle are humanely handled in connection with slaughter. Therefore, the Agency is soliciting comments on Farm Sanctuary's petition and the petition's request that all non-ambulatory disabled livestock at official establishments be condemned and promptly euthanized. After carefully considering the comments, FSIS intends to issue another Federal Register notice or proposed rulemaking related to addressing issues associated with the humane handling of livestock other than cattle at official establishments."

Comments are due on the actions by April 8.

Here's a link to read the full FSIS notice.

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