USDA Publishes Final Rule Allowing for Dangerous High-Speed Pig Slaughter

October 1, 2019


Update—December 18, 2019: We are sad to share some disappointing news for pigs: thanks to language put forward by U.S. Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and David Price (D-NC), there was an opportunity to block the high-speed pig slaughter rule in the FY2020 Appropriations bill. Unfortunately, Congress did not opt to fold this language into the final bill, which was released this week. The rule will move forward as planned. There are other efforts underway to fight this cruel change to pig slaughter regulations, so we will keep you informed on how you can help as those efforts move forward.

Update—October 1, 2019: Today, the USDA published its final rule on high-speed pig slaughter. We have seen the USDA’s final rule on pig slaughter and it is as damaging as expected. As we feared, it takes the unprecedented step of removing all slaughter line speed caps. It also decreases and privatizes certain food safety and animal welfare oversight responsibilities away from federal inspectors and onto already overworked slaughter plant employees, jeopardizing the welfare of animals, workers and consumers. This reckless proposal is a total abdication of government responsibility and increases the potential for egregious violations of humane slaughter laws. Releasing this rule while the USDA’s own Inspector General is in the midst of an audit examining deficiencies with the data the agency relied on to design the rule is irresponsible and we urge the USDA to halt implementation of this dangerous rule.

Over the weekend, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) quietly completed its review of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) new rule to deregulate the slaughter of pigs. This dangerous proposal would eliminate line speed limits at pig slaughterhouses, reduce the number of government inspectors at plants by 40% and allow slaughter companies to design their own food safety programs. 

This announcement comes even as USDA’s own Inspector General—its internal watchdog—is in the middle of investigating whether the agency concealed information from the public when it developed this short-sighted rule. The rule now goes back to USDA for publication and, in as little as two months, would allow more pig slaughter plants to convert to the highly deregulated “New Swine Slaughter Inspection System.”

The ASPCA has long opposed this reckless proposal that jeopardizes the welfare of animals, workers and consumers. If the final rule resembles the agency’s proposal, it will mean more pigs subjected to dangerous high-speed slaughter, which increases the potential for egregious violations of humane slaughter laws, including pigs being boiled in scalding tanks while still conscious. Additionally, plant employees with no required training—rather than USDA veterinarians—will be in charge of inspecting live pigs prior to slaughter.

There is strong public opposition to this proposal, which puts pigs at risk of even greater suffering at the time of slaughter, reduces government oversight, and threatens food and worker safety. In May 2018, a staggering 39,263 ASPCA advocates submitted public comments to USDA opposing this high-speed pig slaughter plan. Out of 84,000 public remarks, 87% opposed or expressed negative opinions about the rule. A poll commissioned by the ASPCA and other groups also found that an overwhelming majority of Americans—in all regions of the country and across party lines—opposes USDA’s proposal.

Members of Congress have spoken out against this rule time and time again. On August 1, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) sent a letter to USDA’s Inspector General urging her office to expand its ongoing investigation to address additional deficiencies with the rule’s data and conclusions.

Once we review the contents of the final rule, we’ll share our analysis and an action plan with the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade (make sure you’re a member!).