Activists sue USDA over abuse of millions of pigs too sick and injured to walk | Totally Vegan Buzz

Activists sue USDA over abuse of millions of pigs too sick and injured to walk

Activists sue USDA over abuse of millions of pigs too sick and injured to walk
Image: napocska /

Animal rights activists have sued the US Department of Agriculture over accusations officials have neglected their responsibilities to protect millions of slaughterhouse pigs who are so sick and injured they are unable to walk.

A lawsuit was filed in New York by animal welfare groups Farm Sanctuary, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Animal Outlook, Animal Welfare Institute, Compassion in World Farming, Farm Forward and Mercy For Animals.

The super-group of activists claim the Department has failed to fulfill legal obligations to protect ‘downed’ and ‘non-abulatory’ animals. 

Depressingly, according to estimates more than half a million pigs arrive at slaughterhouses in the US too sick or injured to support their own weight. 

The lawsuit states: “Plaintiffs challenge Defendant federal agencies’ and officials’ unlawful failure to protect the more than half million pigs who arrive annually at slaughterhouses in the United States unable to rise or walk, as well as additional pigs who become unable to rise or walk after arriving at the slaughterhouse.”


Activists say pigs are kept in holding pens and left to fester in their own feces for long periods before they are killed. These pigs are also at a high risk of abuse.

“Downed pigs suffer significantly at slaughterhouses across the United States, including being trampled by other animals and being excessively shocked, prodded, kicked, shoved, and dragged by workers attempting to force them to move,” the lawsuit continues.

Activists sue USDA over abuse of millions of pigs too sick injured to walk
Image: Orest lyzhechka /

‘Horror story’

Activists explained how incidents involving downed pigs at slaughterhouses across the US ‘reads like a horror story’.

They documented a list of horrendous incidents exposed at slaughterhouses, including:

  • A downed pig at a slaughterhouse in Kentucky with a large bloody abscess on her knee that another pig was eating
  • A downed pig who squealed out in pain when a worker at a slaughterhouse in Indiana closed a grapple fork around her snout and hydraulically squeezed her head
  • A downed pig who was panting excessively falling backwards and landing on her back after being kneed by a worker at a slaughterhouse in Iowa in an attempt to get her to move
  • A downed pig whose leg became caught while workers at another Iowa slaughterhouse were trying to move him, causing part of his hoof to become detached from the bone and tissue
  • A downed pig who was kicked in the stomach and then electro-shocked in an attempt to get her to move at yet another Iowa slaughterhouse. 

Dena Jones, a director at the Animal Welfare Institute, said in support of the lawsuit: “Animals who are unable to walk or move on their own are at a higher risk of being abused at the slaughterhouse.

“For this very reason, the USDA decided in 2016 to ban the slaughter of downer calves. Pigs deserve the same basic protections under the federal humane slaughter law.”


Activists explained that the USDA keeps detailed records of downed pigs who are routinely abused.

Irene Au-Young, a student in the Animal Law Litigation Clinic which is representing the activists, said in a statement: “The federal government continues to treat pigs as industrial commodities to be produced as cheaply as possible, without regard for animal welfare or consumer safety.

“The law doesn’t allow this total disregard, and this lawsuit will hold the government accountable for forcing sick and injured animals to the killing floor and onto the dinner plates of unsuspecting consumers.”

Share this article to reveal the reality behind the pork industry. What do you think of the lawsuit? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Published by Oli Gross

Oli’s career and personal ethical values both help shape his reporting of the diverse world of veganism. His background is in local newspaper and magazine journalism, and his work has included reporting court cases, celebrity interviews, business analysis, food and drink features and government legislation.



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