Senator Feinstein Seeks to End Slaughter of Downed Animals, Asks Department of Agriculture to Join Effort
- Pledges to introduce new legislation to close loophole that allows slaughter of downed calves-
Nov 09 2009
Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today urged the Department of Agriculture to more vigorously enforce federal laws which outlaw the inhumane treatment and slaughter of food animals, following the release of yet another video which documented cases of animal cruelty in slaughterhouses.
“It is my belief that the conditions in these plants reflect a system that accepts brutality, and I call on you to hold the offenders within the industry, and the Department, accountable for their actions,” Senator Feinstein wrote in today’s letter to United States Department of Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack.
In March 2008, Senator Feinstein introduced the Downed Animal Enforcement Act, which would make it illegal for all non-ambulatory livestock to enter the food supply and would levy penalties on slaughter facilities that don’t comply with federal law.
In March 2009, the USDA issued regulations to prohibit the inhumane slaughter of downed cattle. However, Senator Feinstein believes more can be done and intends to introduce legislation that will:
- Close any loopholes that allow for the continued slaughter of downed calves;
- Authorize new funding to hire additional inspectors, and;
- Create an Office of Humane Slaughter within the Food Safety Inspection Service.
The video released last week of the Bushway slaughterhouse in Vermont is the latest in a string of videos by the Humane Society of the United States that document inhumane treatment in slaughterhouses, livestock auctions and stockyard facilities.
One of the videos, which documented problems at the Westland/Hallmark Meat Company’s meat packing plant in Chino, Calif., led the USDA to recall 143 million pounds of beef in February 2008. The plant was shut down.
Following is the text of the letter sent by Senator Feinstein to USDA Secretary Thomas Vilsack:
November 9, 2009
The Honorable Thomas Vilsack
Secretary, Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave. S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20250
Dear Mr. Secretary,
I am deeply disturbed by recent reports that document inhumane practices and violations of federal laws at U.S. slaughterhouse facilities. It is my belief that vigorous enforcement of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act is a moral imperative, and I write today to request an update on the Department’s efforts to stop the inhumane treatment and slaughter of food animals.
Specifically, I would like to know:
- How did the Department implement the provision in the FY 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act that required the Food Safety Inspection Service to have no fewer than 120 full time equivalent positions dedicated to the enforcement of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act?
- How many full time (not full time equivalent) employees are dedicated exclusively to the enforcement of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act?
- In the last fiscal year, how much did the Department spend on enforcement of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act?
- Do you intend to purse administrative actions that would prohibit the slaughter of all downed animals, including calves to be used for veal?
As you may know, in the 110th Congress I introduced the Downed Animal Enforcement Act, and was an original co-sponsor of the Downed Animal and Food Safety Protection Act. These bills would make it illegal for all non-ambulatory livestock to enter into our food supply, and levy significant penalties on any slaughter facility that does not comply with the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. While I appreciate the steps taken by the Administration in March 2009 to prohibit the inhumane slaughter of downed cattle, I still believe that there is much more that must be done to insure that all slaughter is conducted in a humane manner. Consequently, I intend to introduce new legislation that will:
- Close the loophole that allows for the slaughter of downed calves, and direct the Department to develop standards for the treatment and transport of calves to be sold as bob veal;
- Authorize new funding to hire additional full-time humane slaughter inspectors; and
- Create an Office of Humane Slaughter within the Food Safety Inspection Service, to elevate the important responsibilities of the HMSA inspectors.
Unfortunately the inhumane treatment at the Bushway slaughterhouse in Vermont, publicized this week by the Humane Society of the United States, is not an isolated incident. The Humane Society has found a pattern of egregious humane handling violations in each location that it has investigated (covering six states) in the last two years. This includes the blatant violations at the Westland-Hallmark plant in California last year, which took place under supervision of USDA inspectors. It is my belief that the conditions in these plants reflect a system that accepts brutality, and I call on you to hold the offenders within the industry, and the Department, accountable for their actions.
Please know that I stand ready to assist your efforts, and the efforts of the Department, as you work to address this serious problem.
United States Senator