ASPCA Opposes Alarming USDA Rule that Deregulates the Slaughter of Pigs

USDA finalizes New Swine Slaughter Inspection System (NSIS) rule, despite on-going OIG investigation into data deficiencies
October 1, 2019

WASHINGTON, DC – The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®) condemns the decision by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to publish its dangerous New Swine Slaughter Inspection System (NSIS) rule, which removes all restrictions on pig slaughter line speeds. Published in the Federal Register today, the rule also decreases and privatizes animal welfare oversight responsibilities away from federal inspectors and onto already overworked slaughter plant employees.

The announcement comes even as the USDA’s own Office of Inspector General (OIG) – it’s internal watchdog – is in the middle of investigating whether the agency concealed information from the public and relied on flawed data when it developed this short-sighted rule.

“The USDA’s unprecedented rule allows the pig slaughter industry to rush vulnerable pigs through the slaughter process, likely resulting in unconscionable suffering and severe violations of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act – one of the only federal laws protecting farm animals from cruelty,” said Matt Bershadker, ASPCA president and CEO. “The rule represents an unacceptable prioritization of profit above animal welfare, at the horrific expense of these pigs as well as the health of slaughterhouse workers and unaware consumers.”

The ASPCA has long opposed this rule as it puts pigs at risk of even greater suffering at the time of slaughter, reduces government oversight, and threatens food and worker safety. There is strong public opposition as well – out of 84,000 public remarks the USDA received, 87 percent opposed or expressed negative opinions about the rule. Additionally, a poll commissioned by the ASPCA and other groups found that an overwhelming majority of Americans – in all regions of the country and across party lines – opposes the USDA rule.

In August, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) sent a letter to USDA’s OIG asking for the current audit to be expanded to include animal welfare and food safety concerns. Due to strong opposition to this flawed rule, the U.S. House of Representatives included an important provision in the FY2020 Agriculture Appropriations bill to block funding for implementation of the NSIS until the OIG has investigated serious concerns over supporting data and design flaws. It also mandates that FSIS fully address and resolve those issues raised by the OIG in order for the rule to proceed.

“It is irresponsible of the USDA to publish this final rule while the agency’s own Inspector General is still in the middle of examining deficiencies with the data the agency relied on to design the rule,” said Ingrid Seggerman, director of regulatory policy for the ASPCA. “We thank Senator Merkley and Representative DeLauro for speaking out against this reckless proposal, and we urge Congress to block funding for implementation of this rule.”

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