USDA proposes disastrous plan to increase kill speeds at pig slaughterhouses

By on April 4, 2018 with 29 Comments

Slaughterhouses in the United States are allowed to kill more than 1,000 pigs per hour under current U.S. Department of Agriculture rules. Inside these facilities, employees handling the animals work under immense stress at breakneck speeds, performing repetitive motions in cold, slippery conditions, using dangerous equipment.

Now, as if these existing conditions for both the animals and workers weren’t bad enough, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is getting ready to remove slaughter line speed limits at pig slaughterhouses altogether, which would allow these facilities to actually increase the rate at which the animals are killed. The proposal would also partially privatize food safety inspections without providing funding or any requirements for training plant workers. This is a disastrous plan that does not deserve further consideration.

Existing line speed regulations already make slaughter facilities among the most dangerous and difficult places to work in America. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, meatpacking workers experience injury rates nearly 2.5 times higher and an illness rate almost 17 times higher than the average for all industries. Forcing workers to process the animals faster will only exacerbate these problems, while increasing the risk of contaminated pork being introduced into the U.S. food supply.

Faster line speeds would also inevitably lead to more frequent inhumane incidents, such as pigs being inadequately stunned and therefore remaining conscious during slaughter — a violation of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. The HSUS works closely with farmers and ranchers across the country who understand the need for humane handling of animals during the slaughter process. These producers uniformly oppose the line-speed rule change as a step backward, especially coming at a time when consumers are more concerned than ever with how their food is produced and how animals raised for food are treated.

The USDA proposal removes many trained, federal inspectors at slaughter plants, and instead turns the inspections over to company employees, who are under enormous pressure and vulnerable to firing if they flag problems. In what can only be described as ridiculous spin, the USDA says that this will free up time for federal inspectors to ensure that the animals are being handled humanely. If the USDA is truly looking for ways to make the pig slaughter process more humane, it ought to start with prohibiting the slaughter of “downed” pigs – animals who are too injured or too sick or weak to stand and walk. This would be similar to what the agency has already done for downed calves and cows. It would remove an incentive to abuse weak, sick, and injured animals to force them onto trucks and into slaughter lines.

The current USDA proposal is based on a pilot program begun in 1997, which allowed five hog slaughter facilities to operate at higher speeds with a reduced number of federal inspectors. But that program has already been criticized for its shortcomings by the Office of Inspector General, which said it “repeatedly failed to stop the production of contaminated meat,” and failed to even properly assess whether this new idea resulted in measurable food safety improvements.

Earlier this week Food and Water Watch revealed that a new, “state of the art” hog slaughter facility in Coldwater, Michigan, where the agency presumably wanted to demonstrate its new proposal, has already been cited for repeated food safety failures in the six months it has been operating. A plant employee tasked with food safety inspection failed to identify a dead hog in the holding pen prior to slaughter – never mind spotting diseases that can be harder to recognize.

The USDA’s proposal to remove limits on line speeds at pig slaughterhouses is clearly a bad idea that should never be tolerated in a nation with a professed commitment to food safety and the humane treatment of animals in slaughter. You can help us put a stop to this unworthy proposal by telling the agency that you oppose its plan to partially privatize food safety inspection and endanger the welfare of plant workers and animals in the process. We only have until May 2 to submit comments to the agency, so please act soon.

Here’s a sample message you can use or adapt: “I am opposed to the USDA’s plan to privatize food safety inspection and allow pork producers to operate faster than they already do. These changes put endangered and overwhelmed workers at additional risk of severe injury, increase the chance of contaminated pork making it into the food supply, and will worsen the inhumane handling of pigs.”

Farm Animals, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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  1. Mary McMahon says:

    This is outrageous and shameful. These poor animals suffer enough already. Let alone these workers.

    • Judith Aslin says:

      The more I read of inhumane treatment of animals for any reason, the more I feel I shall return to vegetarian eating. I much prefer to see animals enjoying life and on their feet, than to be shown how much they suffer to become food, entertainment, et alia for humans.
      And what about the inhumane position of the workers? Surely this new plan will land many of them in hospital, especially with lack of training – and with the loss of body parts so that they will be unable to function properly afterwards. The situation seems bad enough already; surely the planners don’t want to make it much worse? Ridiculous is a word which springs to mind. They should know better.

    • Pamela Jo says:

      Thank you Dorothy. Stand firm.

  2. Dorothy says:

    As a taxpayer, I am sick and tired of this USDA – its time to get rid of them and their slaughterhouses – how much are they getting paid to destroy animal life. This USDA is the scum of the earth.

  3. Barbara Beierl says:

    Dear Sir,
    The barbaric plan to increase the rate of killing animals, pigs in particular, is heartbreaking! You seem to take no notice of the increased pain and suffering that these animals will go through so that your companies can increase their profits. How would you like to have human creatures experience such pain and exploitation? Have you no mercy or care? Don’t think about profits. Think about compassion. These animals are our biological relatives.

    Barbara Beierl

  4. Bret Lythgoe says:

    Terrible. This would increase suffering immeasurably.

  5. Sandra monville says:


  6. Deborah Williamson says:

    This is simply unfathamable! We over consume as it is. This is inhumane and uncalled for. Stop the proposal for high speed kills!

  7. Norm Wilson says:

    These changes of reducing food safety oversight and privatization are the promised outcomes of extreme Republican policy. We will have to go through the same horrors in slaughterhouses of 100 plus years ago before things will right themselves again. These are the sort of dangerous policy changes the Trump White House can veil behind the stage show of distracting tweets and leaks.

  8. Lesley Millar says:

    Absolutely disgusting

  9. rose brooks says:

    The USDA seems to have its priorities wrong. Speed should be the least consideration, especially in an operation where life – and death are involved. But, having weighed up the pros and cons , i remember why I am a vege/vegan.

  10. Martine Michelle says:


  11. Greg Mulvey says:

    STOP this HORROR!

  12. lily gar says:

    do not eat pig flesh no wonder people get more cancer ,pigs are intelligent beings , they feel like we the human Animal ,we eat to survive but at what cost ,your eating the soul of a torchered Animal , there babies are in a crate with bars between them , these Animals Cows, Chickens , are in a factory building ,not farms run by $10 an hour workers who have no heart and destroy ,farmers did not know when they traded there land for buildings , we the Americans and Canadians and people all over the world just eat without thinking about the screams of pain these Animals went through, we are no better than Dog farms living in filth , what the moon bears are suffering with a hole in there body ,check for your self what angora is doing to the rabbits pulling the fur from there body,alligator farms, how they kill them with a hot spike in there back ,the Animals were not put on this Earth to be torchered by Human Animals , I do not eat flesh from dead Animals ,there is so much you can eat , your trained as a child do good and you’ll have a hamburger ,,if you only knew what it is doing to your soul

  13. Patricia DiGiosia says:

    This proposal needs to be stopped at the very least.

  14. Ripert says:

    Honteux et inadmissible honte aux gouvernements si ils ne font rien

  15. Deborah Van Damme says:

    Absolutely a psychopathic and criminal decision! The criminal meat industry MUST be stopped. No sane human would ever commit the horrific crimes of torture and murder against sentient fellow creatures. How can this be legal????

  16. l says:

    Whoever approves of this should be made to watch the slaughter.

  17. Lynn Watson says:

    Disgusting , have some compassion for these animals

  18. Felicia Sevene says:

    I submitted a comment, but it was posted on the site that all comments were due by April 2, 2018, not May 2, 2018. Was that an error on the part of the HSUS? Or have we all been deliberately misled by the government about the deadline?

  19. Diana acker says:


  20. Janet Walter says:

    This is a step backwards to a darker age for workers and animals alike. It’s too dreadful for words. Please don’t let this happen. We already treat animals as commodities not the sentient beings that they are. Please don’t do this. Please think about what it means.

  21. Keith Fitzgeralds says:

    This is an asinine proposal with no regard to animals

  22. Karen Winkler says:

    Increasing the speed of the kill line and increasing the number of animals killed per hour is irresponsible, in humane, and dangerous. Do NOT increase.

  23. Martha Melcher says:

    I am absolutely opposed to increasing kill rates of pigs in slaughter houses as well as privatizing food safety inspection. Pigs are intelligent and suffer fear and feel pain. Feces Contaminated meat can sicken and kill consumers. Do not implement USDA shortsighted plan!!!

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