The Animal Legal Defense Fund has submitted comments to the United States Department of Agriculture's [USDA] Food Safety and Inspection Service [FSIS] opposing the agency's plan to speed up pig slaughtering.
Pigs are already killed at speeds described as 'alarmingly fast' by the Defense Fund - with an average of 16 animals being slaughtered per minute.
Under the proposed plans - called 'Modernization of Swine Slaughter Inspection' - critical food safety inspection duties would be turned over from agency inspectors to and industry trained slaughter plant workers.
According to The Animal Legal Defense Fund [ALDF]: "USDA's proposed 'Modernization of Swine Slaughter Inspection' rule would expand a failed and unlawful pilot program, the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point-based Inspection Models Project [HIMP], to pig slaughterhouses nationwide, creating the New Swine Slaughter Inspection System.
"While the largest meat companies stand to profit from this privatized, speeded-up pig slaughter, animals, consumers, and slaughterhouse workers will pay a steep price."
An undercover investigation revealed grim consequences of the scheme
The proposals face a number of opponents - as well as campaigners, the agency's own Office of Inspector General and its front-line inspectors in HIMP slaughter plants, a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers, and the general public are unhappy with the plans.
According to ALDF, a plant trialing the methods - Quality Pork Processors, Inc. [QPP] - slaughters 1,295 pigs per hour, or one pig every three seconds.
A 2015 undercover investigation of QPP revealed plant employees, under pressure to keep up with the facility's high slaughtering speeds, illegally dragging, kicking, beating, and excessively shocking pigs with electric prods.
Disabled 'downer' hogs who were too sick or injured to move were abused as slaughterhouse workers tried to force them to the kill floor.
The QPP investigation also documented numerous instances of improper stunning of pigs — another serious violation of federal law. A QPP supervisor who was supposed to be overseeing the required stunning of pigs was filmed literally sleeping on the job.
The plan's critics argue that implementing the New Swine Slaughter Inspection System nationwide also carries dire 'consequences for food safety'.
According to ALDF: "In the words of one HIMP plant inspector, '[f]ood safety has gone down the drain under HIMP'. Poorly-trained plant employees have been enlisted as on-line sorters, replacing FSIS inspectors with expertise in pathology and decades of experience in inspection - while slaughter speed increases dramatically.
"As large pig carcasses speed by, employees miss or ignore dangerous and unsanitary contaminants, defects, and diseases — fecal matter, bile, grease, hair, toenails, cystic kidneys, bladder stems, abscesses, lesions, diamond skin, and more — allowing sullied pigs to proceed down the slaughter line to be processed into food.
"FSIS inspectors similarly face pressure not to stop the slaughter line to remove carcasses with contaminants, experiencing threats and retaliation both from the company and their own agency superiors."
The organization concludes: "FSIS should heed this chorus of well-placed criticism, and discard the new pig slaughter program as a failed and unlawful experiment."