- Carmen RottenbergUSDA Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety
- James SneeHormel Chief Executive Officer
- Luis MarconiHormel Group Vice President, Grocery Products
- Sonny PerdueSecretary of Agriculture
- Paul KieckerUSDA Food Safety and Inspection Service Acting Administrator
- Hormel Foods
Not So Fast, USDA: Stop the Unhealthy & Inhumane High-Speed Slaughter!
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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is working to expand a flawed pilot program that allows select slaughterhouses to dramatically speed up their slaughter lines, while simultaneously pulling back on government oversight. I recently worked undercover at one of these pilot facilities, and captured on video the shocking ways this program fails to protect animal welfare—and American food safety.
Please join me in telling USDA and Hormel it’s time to stop this high-speed, reduced-inspection pilot program, known as HIMP. By shifting key inspection responsibilities to the slaughterhouses themselves, while also allowing these plants to operate at extremely high kill speeds, this program is allowing animal abuse and food safety problems to increasingly go unchecked. Consumers deserve more, not less, oversight in food production.
Before going undercover at Quality Pork Processors in Austin, Minnesota, I knew that I would see appalling abuses and nightmarish animal suffering—that’s unavoidable at a slaughter plant, especially one that processes 1,300 pigs each hour. But what I didn’t expect was how rare it would be to encounter a government inspector, or how many pigs would be processed into SPAM or other Hormel products despite being sick, injured, riddled with pus-filled abscesses, or covered in feces.
Even knowing what I did about animal cruelty, I naively believed that the government was at least making sure that the food supply was safe—but I don’t believe that anymore. Now, I know that our government has rubber-stamped a program that gives the profit-driven pork industry free reign to “monitor” itself.
I documented plant employees, under pressure to keep up with the facility’s high operating speeds, dragging, kicking, beating, and excessively shocking pigs. I even saw pigs regaining consciousness on the slaughter line—a major violation of federal law.
Let’s demand that USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service live up to its name and do just that—meaningfully regulate and inspect our nation’s slaughterhouses. It can’t continue to bow to pressure from industry giants like Hormel. We must end this high-speed slaughter program, which replaces highly-trained inspectors with untrained, industry employees—with devastating results for animals, workers, and consumers.
Scott David (former Compassion Over Killing undercover investigator)
October 2017 Update: With a proposal to expand the dangerous HIMP pig slaughter program on the horizon, chickens and turkeys are facing a similar threat. The industry has petitioned the USDA to lift the current maximum line speed of 140 birds per minute (that’s already more than 2 birds every second!). Such a waiver of the cap would essentially allow plants to operate at any speed—a serious danger to animals, workers, and consumers.
In 2015, I worked inside Mountaire Farms in North Carolina—operating at speeds of up to 140 birds per minute. I saw live birds being thrown into piles with the dead as workers only had time to perform split-second checks of their condition, fallen birds being thrown across the room, and birds having their heads caught in the shackles as workers rushed to keep up. As investigations and government inspection records reveal, improper shackling can even lead to the kill blade slicing birds open in places other than their throat, and the birds then entering the scalding tank alive. Yet the industry has ignored these risks in a sly attempt to line its own pockets by trying to make slaughter lines run even faster. Please join me in telling the USDA, “Not so fast!”
- USDA Acting Deputy Under Secretary for Food Safety
- Hormel Chief Executive Officer
- Hormel Group Vice President, Grocery Products
- Secretary of Agriculture
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service Acting Administrator
- Hormel Foods
I’m writing to urge you to put an end to HIMP, the high-speed, reduced-oversight USDA pilot program in place at five U.S. pig slaughterhouses—two of which are owned by or exclusively supply to Hormel.
Only the pork industry stands to gain from this program, which increases output but decreases accountability, and it’s inevitable that both animal abuse and food safety issues will flourish if this program is rolled out nationwide.
Animals, workers, and consumers desperately need USDA to work for them, not the industry. Please work to strengthen, not weaken, existing animal welfare and food safety protections, and terminate the HIMP program for good.
October 2017 update: I also urge the USDA to reject the poultry industry’s recent petition for waivers to increase its own line speeds. Even at current line speeds of up to 140 birds per minute, or more than two birds killed every second, suffering is rampant. Investigations, whistleblowers, and USDA inspection records have documented injuries--in both workers and birds--as well as birds being improperly stunned and entering the scalding tank alive. A 2015 Compassion Over Killing investigation, for example, found live birds being thrown into piles with the dead as workers only had time to perform split-second checks of their condition, fallen birds being thrown across the room, and birds having their heads caught in the shackles as workers rushed to keep up with the fast pace.
I hope that you will stand up for welfare of the billions of chickens and hundreds of millions of turkeys slaughtered each year, as well as workers and consumers, instead of industry interests, and deny this petition.
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