Handling Slow and Non-Ambulatory Pigs in U.S. Slaughterhouses

Last month, USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service issued guidance for how its inspectors are to monitor the treatment and eventual location of fatigued or otherwise slow pigs during truck unloading and loading of stockyard pens at slaughterhouses. This is important, the advice states, for both animal welfare reasons as well as carcass health checks.

The guidelines distinguish between pigs who are ambulatory but slow-moving and those who are non-ambulatory (“U.S. Suspect”). While the former should be herded along with their herdmates and then put into a separate pen, the latter should be separated from the other pigs. However, it is left up to each establishment to develop guidelines for this process of separation if it so chooses.

This caveat  seems to largely defeat the purpose of the guideline, and is a wonderful example of the many loopholes in U.S. factory farming laws, regulations and internal industry (often voluntary) rules. Americans seem oddly comfortable with allowing animal industries to self-regulate to an amazing degree. Why is this? What will it take for us to learn that self-policing in a setting for corporate interests are involves does not work for the benefit of animals, whose interests are inherently secondary?

-Suzanne McMillan

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