The Enforcement Of Humane Slaughter Laws In The U.S.
An Animal Welfare Institute study of over 1,000 documents including records from federal and state agricultural departments from 2002 to 2007 shows that “enforcement of humane slaughter laws is a low priority of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, state agriculture departments, and the U.S. animal agriculture industry as a whole.”
According to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) enforcement data from October 2006 to September 2007, humane handling and slaughter was the subject of 1.9% of all USDA verification procedures, 0.6% of all noncompliance records (NRs) and 17% of all plant suspensions.
Review of the NRs at federal slaughterhouses showed no significant increase in the number of citations for humane slaughter since the mid-1990s. Suspensions of plant operations for humane handling and slaughter violations increased slightly over the past decade, though handling of these violations were inconsistent.
Cows were more likely to be victims of humane treatment than were pigs, and large plants were more likely to be suspended for humane violations than very small plants. The most common violations were failure to provide water to animals in pens, and failure to maintain pens.
There are currently three dozen countries that are qualified to export meat to the U.S., however the USDA does not include humane slaughter laws and their enforcement in reviewing eligibility.
Though many states participate in in meat inspection programs or administration of humane slaughter programs, many did not or could not provide records. In some cases, deficiencies were noted, but no further actions were taken. The meat and poultry industries have developed voluntary handling and slaughter guidelines.
Although nearly 400 million animals were killed for food during this time (not including birds and fish), only 42 actions found deficiencies. Based on this research, the Animal Welfare Institute concludes that the humane rearing of farmed animals is a low priority for U.S. agricultural enforcement agencies, and that offenses should be followed up with greater seriousness and consequences.