We’ve received a lot of questions concerning the USDA’s plan that affects poultry slaughter negatively- for animals and for human health.
Since the USDA planned to implement their controversial plan, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand requested a report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) on the USDA’s plan. The plan was based on flawed data from a pilot program used in a very small number of poultry plants. This controversial plan can be detrimental to public health as well as have severe detrimental consequences to the welfare of chickens and turkeys.
Poultry is not covered by the Humane Slaughter Act. However, food safety regulations require USDA inspectors be at poultry slaughter plants to inspect and identify contaminated poultry and diseased carcasses. The proposed USDA plan would cut the number of USDA inspectors who are there to examine the birds for diseases by 40%, replacing them with poultry company or processing plant employees, who will not be required to have any training. These untrained poultry processing plant employees will be inspecting chickens and turkeys for diseases such as: septicemia, toxemia, cancer, and others to prevent them from entering the food chain. Since the poultry plant employees work for the poultry plant itself, there may be a conflict of interest for the poultry employees to allow more birds to be processed.
In addition, this plan allows the increase of the line speeds. The line speeds must be slow enough for the inspectors to visually examine the birds. This proposal would increase the line speeds dramatically to about 3 birds per second. That does not bode well for even a trained USDA poultry inspector to examine the birds, let alone for the ability of an untrained poultry company employee to determine the disease status of the birds as they whizz by.
And the birds? Pain and suffering for poultry starts with hanging and shackling the birds on the line. The HFAC standards require chickens be hung in shackles by both legs, with each leg placed on a separate shackle, and an appropriate line speed is required in order to do this carefully. Most industrial poultry plants shackle only one of the bird’s legs, causing the bird pain and distress, in order to process more birds in less time. In addition, the slower line speeds assure the birds are stunned and slaughtered, so that there are NEVER any live birds going into the scalder.
Industrial poultry slaughter plants can’t meet the HFAC standards because of their line speeds. Our poultry slaughter standards require slow line speeds; there are no live birds going alive into the scalder (a slower line speed means that employees have adequate time to ensure that this does not happen). Any plant that sent live birds into the scalder would never pass our inspection. For more information, you can read our chicken and turkey standards, which include the slaughter standards here: http://www.certifiedhumane.org/index.php?page=standards.
Here is what you can do to change the situation:
1. Contact the Secretary of Agriculture, The Honorable Tom Vilsack. Tell him that you are opposed to this new ruling and would like him to review the GAO’s report and start the process over. Tell him why you think it is important to have slower line speeds and qualified inspectors. You can write to him at the following address:
The Honorable Tom Vilsack
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Room 200A, Whittenberg Building
Washington, DC 20250
2. Write your Congressman and both Senators and tell them you want them to do whatever they need to do to make sure this program is not implemented. Most legislators allow you to contact them by email on their websites.
You can find out who your representatives are at: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/
You can find out who your Senators are at: http://www.senate.gov/pagelayout/senators/f_two_sections_with_teasers/states.htm
3. You, as the consumer, have the power to vote with your pocketbook and make a difference in the way that animals are treated, from birth through slaughter, by purchasing Certified Humane® products and rewarding farmers and companies who treat animals the right way.
For more information on where to find Certified Humane® products, visit HFAC’s “Where to Buy” page at: http://www.certifiedhumane.org/index.php?page=where-to-buy or download the Certified Humane App. To download the App, go to the App Store for iPhone or Google Play for Android, search for “Certified Humane”, then download and open. You can also access the mobile where to buy page by going to: www.certifiedhumane.org from your smart phone.
The best way to get more supermarkets to sell products that are Certified Humane® is to go to our “Take Action” page on our website: http://www.certifiedhumane.org/index.php?page=take-action.
If your store does not stock foods that are Certified Humane®, download a “Product Request” form to give to your local store manager. We also have a “Turkey Request” form to download (if you are unable to download, please send your mailing address to email@example.com requesting the forms and Humane Farm Animal Care will mail them to you).
If your store does carry Certified Humane® products, let them know you shop there because they stock these products. Download a Certified Humane Comment Card and bring it to the customer service desk or drop it in their customer comment box. Grocers need to hear that they have business because they carry Certified Humane® products, and that you as a consumer may bring them more business because of these products.
Encourage your favorite food brands to become certified and to use Certified Humane Raised and Handled® ingredients in their products. You can contact them by using the website addresses on the packages of products that you purchase.
If you’d like to do something to help animals, Humane Farm Animal Care will mail you a packet containing brochures and grocer request forms for you to distribute to friends and family. If you are interested, please send your mailing address to firstname.lastname@example.org.
When supermarkets hear from their customers that they want to buy products that are Certified Humane® they will request their suppliers become certified, which then makes those farms and ranches make the changes they need that benefit the animals to be on our program, and for those farm and ranches to send their poultry to be slaughtered in accordance to HFAC poultry slaughter standards. This is the power that you as a consumer have to help farm animals.
4. Tell all your friends about this situation and ask them to do number items 1, 2 and 3 along with you. Share this blog post with everyone you know.
By working together, we can change the way that animals in food production are treated.
Thanks for your support,