Failures of Humane Slaughter Act confirmed

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  May/June 2013:

WASHINGTON D.C.––The Office of the USDA Inspector General report Food Safety and Inspection Service—Inspection and Enforcement Activities At Swine Slaughter Plants should have shocked the pork-eating public. Instead,  released on May 9,  2013,  it went almost ignored until Farm Sanctuary senior director for strategic initiatives Bruce Friedrich on May 28,  2013 described the content in The Huffington Post.  

To that point,  said Farm Sanctuary publicist Meredith Turner,  “There wasn’t even one sentence written about the report in the media,  beyond a few meat industry blogs.”

About two-thirds of the USDA-OIG report described failures of health and safety inspection in pig slaughterhouses,  including frequent instances of overlooking fecal contamination of meat.  The rest described violations of the Humane Slaughter Act.

“The OIG report offers some stomach-turning examples of illegal activity,”  wrote Friedrich.  “Even top FSIS personnel don’t understand what the Humane Slaughter Act requires of them.  OIG officials visited just 30 plants,  each for no more than 30 minutes,  yet they witnessed multiple instances of animals regaining consciousness after stunning,  for which the inspector-in-charge chose not to issue a report,  as was legally required.”

Said the OIG report,  “If this occurred when our audit team and FSIS officials were present,  we are concerned that this might be more prevalent when the plants and inspectors are not being observed.” The Humane Slaughter Act enforcement regulations for inspectors require,  as the OIG report outlines, “ensuring that there are adequate measures in case of inclement weather,  observing truck unloading, checking water and feed availability,  observing handling during ante-mortem inspection,  observing handling of suspect and disabled livestock,  observing electric prod use,  monitoring for slips and falls,  checking stunning effectiveness, and checking for conscious animals hanging on the slaughter rail.”  Occasionally updated,  these rules have in gist been part of federal law for 55 years.

“We found that FSIS inspectors did not take appropriate enforcement actions at eight of the 30 swine slaughter plants we visited,”  the OIG report said.  “We reviewed 158 humane handling noncompliance records issued to the 30 plants and found 10 instances of egregious violations where inspectors did not issue suspensions.  As a result,  the plants did not improve their slaughter practices,  and the Food Safety Inspection Service could not ensure humane handling of swine.”

Previous audits of Food Safety Inspection Service procedures have found similar deficiencies four times in six years.  “In 2012,”  the OIG report recounted,  “an OIG audit of shell eggs found that when the Food Safety Inspection Service identified egregious violations or repeat violators,  it did not initiate progressively stronger enforcement actions.  In 2010,  a Government Accountability Office audit concluded that inspectors did not take consistent enforcement actions when faced with humane handling violations.  In 2008,  the OIG performed an audit in response to videos provided by the Humane Society of the U.S.,”  finding that the Food Safety Inspection Service “needed to strengthen management controls and oversight of food safety and humane handling inspections.  In 2007,  an OIG audit of beef and poultry processing plants found that FSIS inspection personnel did not have guidance on when to take further enforcement actions to address repetitive violations.”

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