Breaking news: USDA eliminates speed limits for killing pigs at slaughterhouses

By on September 17, 2019 with 30 Comments

By Kitty Block and Sara Amundson

Slaughterhouses in the United States are already allowed to kill pigs at a lightning speed of up to 1,106 animals per hour. Under a new federal rule announced today, some of these facilities can dial up those speeds even further, with no limit whatsoever, creating an animal welfare and worker safety nightmare as never before.

The new inspection system created by the rule from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is also likely to reduce the number of federal inspectors at slaughterhouses and it requires slaughterhouse employees, instead of federal inspectors, to conduct initial sorting of live pigs. Requiring slaughterhouse employees to conduct initial sorting of live pigs will increase the risk of animal abuse and improper treatment of pigs, especially of animals who are so sick or exhausted that they can’t stand or walk.

Even under existing line speed regulations, slaughter facilities are among the most dangerous and difficult places to work in America. Employees handling animals work under immense stress at breakneck speeds, performing repetitive motions in cold, slippery conditions, using dangerous equipment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, meatpacking workers experience injury rates nearly 2.5 times higher and illness rates 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 also heighten the risk of inhumane incidents, such as pigs being inadequately stunned and therefore remaining conscious during slaughter — a violation of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.

These are not changes the American public wants or supports. Consumers today increasingly want animals used for food to be treated more humanely, and when the USDA first proposed this plan, tens of thousands of you spoke out overwhelmingly against it. According to one analysis, of “84,000 public remarks made on the rule, 87 percent were either opposed or expressed negative opinions about the proposal.” Another recent poll found that 64% of the public opposes elimination of speed limits on pig slaughter lines.

Even members of Congress have pushed back against this rule, with 16 of them sending a letter to the USDA’s Office of the Inspector General raising concerns about the worker safety data USDA used in developing its rule, leading to the Inspector General launching a probe. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., sent a letter requesting that the Inspector General expand the investigation’s scope to include animal welfare violations and food safety concerns.

But the reason the USDA rushed to finalize the rule despite the overwhelming opposition and the ongoing Inspector General investigation is because it is kowtowing to industry interests. These are changes the meatpacking industry has sought for years so they can increase their profits, and in the current administration they have a willing ally. In a similar show of support for the meat industry, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service last year created a waiver system that allows chicken slaughterhouses to kill birds at reckless speeds of nearly three birds per second.

The USDA has a professed duty under the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act and the Federal Meat Inspection Act to ensure that animals are treated humanely and that the food people eat is safe; and the American public has a right to know the risks that animals and people will face under this rule. By finalizing it, the USDA has failed to do its job and it has failed the American people. We will not back down. Key members of Congress are already fighting this rule. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, along with Rep David Price, D-N.C., led an amendment to the annual Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2020 to delay the implementation of the rule, and it was retained in the final bill because of the strong fight put up by groups like the HSUS and HSLF, food safety watchdogs, and labor organizations. We now need your help to encourage the Senate to adopt a similar measure, which could block the implementation of this rule.

Please urge your Senators to support all efforts to stop the USDA from implementing the rule at least until the agency addresses the recommendations in the Inspector General’s report. Ask them to include language in the final FY20 appropriations bill to block the rule until the Office of the Inspector General issues its report, and to encourage the Inspector General to assess all impacts on animal welfare in addition to its review of the effects on worker safety. This rule has nothing to offer except fatter bottom lines for an industry that puts profits above people and animals, and our nation will be better off without it.

Sara Amundson is president of the Humane Society Legislative Fund.

Farm Animals, Public Policy (Legal/Legislative)

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  1. Alan Alejandro Maldonado Ortiz says:

    No es justo tanta violencia y tanta crueldad tenemos que evitar tanta inumanidad

  2. maria mercedes monch says:

    It is terrible!! for everybody and the animal, I hope and urge for good treatment
    of all animals , Please

  3. Cora Wester says:

    The inhumane way animals are treated has got to stop! Slaughter houses that dont care how the animals suffer should be shut down. Anyone that knowingly causes an animal to endure pain just to speed up the process should be fired. Slaughter houses need to be strictly monitored and have someone always on the premises to ensure the animals are not abused and caused pain because of careless procedures.

  4. TamiCrisanti says:

    These animals are not things, they are feeling beings and they deserve humane treatment.

  5. Jim Bob says:

    Faster slaughter speeds will increase efficiency and ultimately make pork more affordable to low income Americans, and increase returns to shareholders. I welcome the reduction of burdensome regulations that stifle that have our economy.

    • Travis says:

      You seem like a free-market kind of guy. Let’s also then end corn and grain subsidies and let producers pay the real value for feed, not subsidized by taxpayers. Consumers should be paying a real market value for meat, which is way lower currently than it should be.

    • Carol says:

      Wow 😮 for extra profit – crazy to risk this!

    • Ruth B says:

      WhoopDeDoo! All Animal Lives Matter.
      I strongly suggest everyone stop consuming animal flesh and go vegan.
      Much cheaper, healthier and no innocent animals killed. They don’t want to die eaither.

    • Sara says:

      You are a psychopath

    • 😭😭😭😭😭😭 says:


    • Mon says:

      So $2.58 for a pack of bacon isn’t cheap enough for low-income Americans? The fact that these living, feeling beings are being in-humanely slaughtered at unprecedented rates is appalling. Did you know pigs are smarter than dogs and research has also shown that they “feel” a wider range of emotions than household pets such as dos and cats? Yet, we do not slaughter dogs or other domestic animals, and the industry does not seem to care that millions of pigs and slaughterhouse workers are suffering because of recently passed regulations. It is not right.

      • Jean says:

        Bacon for $2.58/lb.? Where do you live? I havent seen bacon in Michigan that low for a long time, more like $5.00/lb to start and on up to $7.00/lb or more. However, these animals deserve to be treated humanely during the process of slaughter (which effect in itself seems counter-indicated), so they don’t feel any pain. If we have to pay more, so be it and I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, part of the financially affluent populace. And, as well, the worker needs to be protected at all times, as much as possible, and speeding up the process would hinder that, so speeding up the process should not be allowed to go forward

    • Ioan Lightoller says:

      Cute. Why don’t YOU go work in a pig slaughterhouses? You know nothing of how animals and those who work there are treated (actually MIStreated).

    • DomDeezy says:

      Pork is already the least expensive and affordable meat on the market. How much lower could we hope the price to fall? Bringing us to; As Americans should we hold ourselves to a higher expectation and work from within to build opportunity and jobs that will allow for every American to build a sustainable and comfortable lifestyle? Why should shareholders grow rich and fat by allowing them to rape and pillage the little guy? Developing careless and unsanitary conditions which lead to higher levels of injury and disease for both humans and animals alike seems rather barbaric and disgusting to me. I can’t speak on behalf of all Americans, but I can say with fair certainty, that even the least educated, lowest income, pickin’ and grinnin’ Jim or Bob wants to be self sustaining, well taken care of, well nourished, healthy and free. Keeping this in mind, keeping people in mind, it seems Jim or Bob might be thankful for the opportunity to flourish and would appreciate some respect and human courtesy. In turn, likely this would result in Jim or Bob turning away from the ideals of corporate greed and gluttony and perpetuate a feeling of pride, self respect and love and ultimately bring a higher level of living.

  6. Beth says:

    What is the purpose of this? Only reason is greed, not humane treatment of these animals in the last moments of their lives, not worker safety, not health and safety for the American consumer, just greed. Maybe more of us will give up eating meat instead. This administration is morally bankrupt and corrupt, this should not be allowed.

    • DomDeezy says:

      @Beth – well put, direct and to the point. “Morally Bankrupt and Corrupt” says it all. It seems that people often forget that: just because someone sits at the top of an organization/company, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re smarter, more capable, more compatible, or that the attain any other positive attribute setting them apart, it only means they somehow made it to the top.

  7. Lynne says:

    I can’t even believe anyone would even fathom this brutality, a human being putting these defenseless animals at the mercy Of total ignorance and no compassion in the humans who are supposed to be there voice. You people disgust me all of you each and every single goddamn one of you

  8. Donna Milano says:

    This is one reason why i bo longer can eat meat

  9. Sandy S says:

    Well if we stop eating pork in two months, they’ll listen

  10. Jacqueline Daly says:

    Sadly the senators from the state of Rhode Island seem unconcerned about animal issues. Perhaps two things should happen-
    1) change the wording in the “Humane” Methods of Slaughter Act to reflect the standards that need to be upheld, and
    2) Stop reelecting representatives who don’t care about constituent’s concerns. Some of these “people” have been in the same office for generations. Once they are removed the USDA could perhaps be held accountable to uphold standards for the slaughter of sentient animals.


  11. HR Hatton says:

    Never a consideration about the suffering, indignity and cruel death the Animals are forced to endure. It’s all about pathetic, barbaric humans.

  12. V Lewin says:

    Horrific beyond measure.

  13. Christina Millard says:

    There seems to be no end to man’s greed and cruelty. These poor creatures what agony and terror they experience in the process of being killed

  14. Susan Childers says:

    Get in Touch with your representative. If you don’t know how use Get involved to make a change. You can simply call or email. Thank God we live in a democracy.

  15. Lisa says:

    This is terrible. Pigs are sentient beings and do not belong in our food chain!

  16. Deborah Kerns says:

    I agree with you! Most farm animals live a life of pure hell and then they are cruelly killed. The USDA should be ashamed.

  17. Tex says:

    We have to keep the population equal!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  18. Susan Heron- Brown says:

    This is sure horrible news for the poor pigs that suffer from birth to death in those factory farms. It is a horrible death to be killed on a speed line. I stopped eating any pork a year ago after seeing a video of how cruel these animals are treated.
    Then being speed killed and not knocked out first is ever so cruel.
    Dam this administration for taking off regulations for all animals.
    This president is a horrible human being for all the cruelty he is imposing on our wild life and farm animals.

  19. Jaqueline says:

    That’s the reason I am a Vegan. I won’t help these people to profit torturing innocent animals. Slaughter houses and Industrial farms are torture chambers. Have you watch some of the videos how these innocent, defenseless animals live their short and painful lives I am sorry but if you watched that and still don’t care you are sick! There’s no food out there that is worth the suffering of animals.

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