The US Department of Agriculture has removed a cap on the speed at which pigs can be slaughtered, in a move which increased fears for animal welfare in the industry.
The White House approved the USDA’s New Swine Slaughter Inspection System (NSIS) to make slaughterhouses more autonomous in their administration.
The agency has been pushing for less federal intervention in regulating pig slaughterhouses for many years.
The new rule removes speed limit caps at pig slaughterhouses and shifts federal inspector responsibilities of animal welfare onto slaughter plant employees.
This means slaughter houses will be less regulated by the government and they will have more freedom to design their own food safety programs.
The current speed limit is set at 16 hog carcasses per minute, effectively killing 977 pigs in an hour. Critics say the current limit already causes workers to work at an excessive pace and risk injury.
According to a pilot program, the USDA has been allowing five large hog slaughterhouses to operate at higher line speeds with fewer inspectors since 1997.
An undercover investigation by Compassion over Killing (COK) revealed that one of the five slaughterhouses in the pilot program had a speed limit target of killing 1,300 pigs each hour, or one pig every five seconds.
Shocking footage released by COK showed workers beating, shocking, and dragging pigs as they struggled to keep up with line speeds.
Irina Anta, COK’s general counsel, said: “COK’s investigation at a high-speed plant exposed horrible animal abuse, but the agency (USDA) has chosen not only to look the other way but to completely revoke maximum line speeds nationwide.”
The new rule has met with strong opposition. Food safety and workers’ rights groups have condemned USDA’s move.
Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter said in a press release: “It is irresponsible for the USDA to expand a radical change to food safety responsibility in the pork industry based on a pilot program that clearly failed to show that allowing companies to inspect themselves can produce safe food.
“It is unacceptable to put public health, worker safety, and animal welfare at risk so that the pork industry can run faster lines and avoid government inspection.
“We urge the USDA to withdraw this rule and fulfill its duty to protect food safety.”
What do you think of the USDA’s new rule? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
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