Proposed USDA Rule Would Ban Slaughter of Sick, Injured Calves

By on May 8, 2015 with 18 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

Today, we received more exciting news for our farm animal protection efforts: the Obama Administration released a proposed rule banning the slaughter of downer calves – juvenile animals too sick or injured or weakened to walk. This long-awaited proposal is the direct result of a legal petition we filed in 2009 after our undercover investigation at Bushway Packing, Inc., a veal calf slaughterhouse in Vermont. That investigation, which found workers kicking, slapping, and shocking with electric prods infant calves only a few days old – many with their umbilical cords still hanging from their bodies, sparked a congressional oversight hearing in 2010. This proposal has been many years in the waiting, but we’re thrilled it’s now moving and stands a strong chance of being adopted and made law.

It is estimated that thousands of veal calves collapse on their way to slaughter every year, most of them a few days or weeks old. Often these calves collapse due to a combination of mistreatment, genetic frailties, and the stress of being taken from their mothers within hours of birth. The youngest calves, slaughtered for “bob veal,” are so vulnerable to abuse that they are 10 times more likely to collapse and become “downers” than mature cattle.

In 2014, another HSUS undercover investigation at Catelli Bros., a veal calf slaughterhouse in New Jersey, confirmed that downer calves continue to suffer. Our investigator recorded workers kicking disabled calves, dragging them with chains, and even waterboarding them with hoses to try to force them to stand up so that they could be slaughtered. A dozen U.S. senators and 72 representatives signed letters to the USDA urging the agency to act swiftly on our petition, with major leadership provided by Sens. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, and Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Reps. Grace Meng, D-N.Y and Rosa DeLauro, D- Conn.

Under the new proposed rule, slaughterhouses will be required to promptly and humanely euthanize all downer calves, just as is already required for adult cattle. This will not only prevent the abuse of downer calves, it will also create a financial incentive for producers to treat all calves better to avoid creating downers. Dr. Temple Grandin, a renowned animal scientist and consultant to the meat industry, notes that “ninety percent of all downers are preventable,” explaining that calves become downers because dairy producers deny the calves their mothers’ colostrum and sell them at auction before they can walk.

After our undercover investigation at the Hallmark-Westland slaughterhouse exposed downed dairy cows shocked with electric prods, kicked, and dragged to slaughter, the U.S. Department of Agriculture finally stopped the slaughter of all adult downer cattle. But following industry lobbying, the USDA left a loophole that allowed young and vulnerable downer calves to be slaughtered for human consumption.

Your support has been critical to closing this loophole. After the Bushway Packing investigation, more than 50,000 of you wrote to the Secretary of Agriculture, urging him to stop the slaughter of downed calves.

Now we need your support again to push this rule over the finish line and make it final (today’s announcement is a proposed rule). We’ve heard that the meat industry is already gearing up to oppose this commonsense reform, so the USDA needs to hear that compassionate Americans like you support it. Please urge the USDA to protect calves from abuse by quickly finalizing this proposed rule.

Animal Rescue and Care, Farm Animals, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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  1. Elaine Livesey-Fassel says:

    For more than 30 years this active animal advocate and USA citizen has lobbied governmental legislators on the topic of pervasive cruelty to all animals and especially factory-farmed animals, and I am deeply grateful that finally we are seeing a glimmer of hope that our concerns are finally being addressed and for that I am so very proud to be a small part of this effort and so admiring of the work of HSUS on this front!

  2. Lisa Sanders says:

    The slaughter of any downed being is beyond cruel. To do this to babies is unthinkable. Please pass this bill!

    • Cindy schmitt says:

      Please pass the bill to stop the torture then slaughter of downed calves. The fact that these babies are separated from their mothers at birth is unfathomable, milk is for babies, maybe humans should grow up. I can’t use milk or veal product knowing how the industry obtains it.

  3. David Bernazani says:

    Well, it’s about time; it only took six years. Anyway I’m interested to see how hard Big Ag fights it– and fight it they will. For them, cruelty is only to be avoided when it doesn’t cost money.

    • EYG says:

      BigAg won’t really have to fight it. If the law passes, they will do what they always do…”donate” to politicians to criminalize whistleblowers that dare bring the abuse to the public. The USDA will not enforce the law anyway, as they currently treat the Humane Slaughtering Act as a “suggestion.” This do-nothing agency is not improving, it is getting worse. Having the law is good, but they know it will have no teeth since they have no intention of enforcing it.

  4. Sue H. Drumheller says:

    Thank God. When will our nation realize how deplorable this cruelty is to living breathing creatures? And the whole world.
    A great step toward humane treatment.
    Thanks Mr. Pacelle

  5. Cindy Miller says:

    Shame on all of you. This had got to stop, and strict rules need to be put into place to make the killing of these poor animals ad painless ad possible. Better yet, stop eating meat, and we would not be dealing with any of this,
    Think about it.

  6. Laura says:

    How about taking this one step farther and stop farming animals and consuming meat products which is not necessary or healthy for us.

  7. Bonnie Dixon says:

    Stop the abuse of these animals. It is sickening to allow these workers to beat and abuse sick animals. There is a place in hell waiting for trash that abuse animals. Unless the scums are reincarnated as a down animal. Hopefully

  8. Eileen goodman says:

    I have no faith in the USDA…they seem to not care at all about the welfare of animals…if the did, there would be no puppy mills, no factory farming, no canned hunting, no sea world, and on and on. You do what you can, but there should be a government authority that is just about cracking down on animal abuse, that has the power to stop the barbaric practices that continue every day.

  9. Mary says:

    please pass this law…people have become savages the though of abusing a newly born calf so helpless just coming into this world there truly is something wrong with you. You must not have a soul in that body to be so evil and cruel. Let’s rush this law is passed..our prayers.

  10. Penelope Bianchi says:

    I am so so proud of Wayne and the US Humane Society. This cruelty has gone on way too long! Bravo Wayne! Bravo HSUS! It is a HUGE obstacle…..just one step at a time! You are doing a magnificent job!!

  11. Catherine Fosse says:

    PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE PASS THIS BILL. Anyone who has even a small amount of compassion for all living beings would not let this outrageous cruelty happen. It just sickens me & to realize that it is just for the pleasures of human beings. This is not humane at all. How would any of these people like this to happen to them??? I believe it should happen to them!! This just makes me cry to realize there are so many sadists & greedy people in this world.

  12. Della Lindquist says:

    so what are we supposed to do? I do not see a link to the comments..of course this should pass..

  13. Julienne Skinner says:

    I want this bill passed with all of my heart. I am so thoroughly sickened by the evil done to these defenseless babies — how can the filth sleep at night? Pass the bill! Go vegetarian so no sweet animal need suffer for our gluttony.

  14. Valerie Newson says:

    It is 2015. Why is this taking so long ? The workers, that are abusing these poor helpless calves, need to be charged with severe animal abuse and fired .We all just stand back, and wait for Humane Society updates, which doesn’t seem to be doing much, to prevent this cruelty. We need volunteers, to be allowed to be there, to keep an eye, on these twisted individuals. I volunteer to go there and supervise this, just to make sure, this horrific abuse ends and animals are treated humanely. I would bet the owners won’t allow it, so this abuse, will continue……….

  15. lisa watts says:

    Stop the cruelty to animals!

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