July 2, 2010
For the last three Congresses, U.S. animal rights groups, led by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), have demanded federal law or extraordinary U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulatory action to ban nonambulatory livestock from entering the nation's food supply. Again, in this Congress and in a letter received by Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack this week from a dozen members of the U.S. House of Representatives - a letter solicited by HSUS - USDA is being asked to take action as part of HSUS' pursuit of its political agenda. The actions HSUS demands are not only redundant to regulatory action taken by USDA but ignore stringent practices of the livestock- and meat-processing industries.
Members of the Farm Animal Welfare Coalition (FAWC), representing millions of farmers, ranchers and employees of the industries that serve our nation's food producers, respectfully requested that Vilsack reject these demands.
These demands - whether legislative or regulatory - are clearly redundant; furthermore, they constitute a waste of USDA's scant resources. Over the last several years, the federal government and industry have taken multiple steps to address the issue of nonambulatory livestock reaching the food supply. Bans on the slaughter of nonambulatory beef and dairy animals, broad testing of bovine animals moving to slaughter and requiring all downed animals to be euthanized are just a few of the implemented policies.
As to HSUS' demand that specific acts of inhumane handling be banned by federal regulation, the House letter ignores decades of program development, training and self-regulation imposed by the livestock- and meat-processing industries at their operations and with their employees. The justification cited in the letter (two isolated incidents of "undercover video") is by no means indicative of standard operating practices on farms, at auction markets or in processing plants. There is no excuse for bad behavior but to accept these two episodes as representative of the entire meat industry is simply wrong.
To accede to the demands of HSUS for an expansion of Food Safety and Inspection Service's inspectors or to the creation of an ombudsman position to enhance whistleblower protection when no such need has been demonstrated means USDA will spend millions of new dollars. Such spending would be wasteful and unnecessary given the breadth of ongoing industry actions.
The American Sheep Industry Association is a member of FAWC.