Pro Athletes Pressure USDA to Protect Animals From High-Speed Slaughter

USDA is accepting public comments through May 2 on a proposed rule entitled “Modernization of Swine Slaughter Inspection.” The rule would decrease the number of federal inspectors at slaughterhouses while also increasing the speed of slaughter lines. Now, a number of professional athletes are speaking out against the measure in a campaign with animal welfare organization Compassion Over Killing (COK).

Olympian Dotsie Bausch, who recently made headlines when she spearheaded an anti-milk campaign aired during the Olympics closing ceremonies, joins fellow athletes in the campaign including NBA champion Metta World Peace; World Cup volleyball champion Dustin Watten; Jack Lindquist, cyclist; Steph Davis, rock climber and flyer; Spencer Pumpelly, race car driver; Laura Kline, ultra runner; and Andy Lally, race car driver.

Faster slaughter line speeds mean more room for error, which can increase the incidences of botched slaughters, leaving pigs, animals experts say are the fifth most intelligent animals in the world, suffering immensely. Increased line speeds also put slaughterhouse workers at risk of injury. And there’s a risk to consumers as processing animals at untenable speeds can increase the spread of E. coli and salmonella contamination, among other bacterial risks.

The use of athletes in the campaign is intentional, says COK, pointing out that “while athletes are meant to be fast, high speed has no place at a slaughter plant.” All of the athletes featured in the campaign are known for their speed.

The group says investigative videos it obtained at high-speed processing facilities for U.S. pork producer Hormel revealed animals being beaten, shocked, dragged and improperly stunned out of view of on-site USDA inspectors. Currently, slaughter lines process approximately 1,300 animals in an hour, with many animals entering the scalding tanks while still alive.

“Compassion Over Killing is excited to pass the ball to these renowned athletes who are energizing our team effort to champion animals, workers, and consumers by opposing the USDA’s dangerous NSIS program,” Erica Meier, Compassion Over Killing’s Executive Director, said in a statement.

COK says it will deliver more than 250,000 signatures to the USDA urging the agency not to approve the new program.

If the agency’s recent dismissal of the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices is any indication of its position on animal welfare policies, then it’s likely the pig slaughterhouse line speeds will continue to increase. After more than a year of delay on the measure passed by the Obama Administration, the agency announced earlier this week that it would not move forward with animal welfare improvements for livestock in the National Organic Program.

“As a society, we need to draw the line and put safety, common sense, and compassion ahead of corporate profits,” urged Metta World Peace. “The modernization of our food safety systems should NOT come at the expense of public health, worker safety, or animal welfare.”