One would think that legislation entitled "the Humane Slaughter Act" would be easily interpreted and applied to the packing industry. However, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals don't see it that way.

PETA has filed a petition with USDA, concerning the Humane Slaughter Act. This follows PETA's pressure in Congress that resulted in much discussion and a renewed vigor on the enforcement of the act. This time, PETA is focusing more specifically on USDA's interpretation of the act, stating that the agency has failed to apply the federal Humane Slaughter Act to animals handled and killed on "factory farms."

PETA officials argue that USDA's application of the Humane Slaughter Act to only slaughterhouses falls short, because it violates the mandate of the act by allowing animals to suffer without inspection from birth onwards.

The Humane Slaughter Act states, “the slaughtering of livestock and the handling of livestock in connection with slaughter shall be carried out only by humane methods.” PETA argues that because animals raised for food are done so “in connection with slaughter,” that the act should be applied to the farm as well.

Therefore, PETA is petitioning USDA to recognize its obligation to prevent cruelty throughout farm animal's lives, not just at slaughterhouses.

Here are some of the on-farm practices that PETA identifies as problematic under the Humane Slaughter Act. Remember, the list is from a PETA news release.

  • Animals are castrated and de-horned and have their tails cut off, ears notched and teeth clipped without the use of anesthesia
  • Animals are kept in conditions so cramped that they cannot turn around or fully stretch and must lie in their own excrement, resulting in limb ulceration and upper-respiratory illnesses
  • Animals are transported in extreme weather and succumb to heat exhaustion; in the winter, pigs and cows freeze to the sides of trucks and their skin is torn off
  • Animals are slaughtered cruelly on the factory farm itself; they are bludgeoned to death with gate poles, hammers and wrenches, painfully and slowly killed by being improperly shot with captive-bolt guns, and simply left to starve or dehydrate to death if debilitated and unable to reach food or water

“Animals don't suddenly develop the capacity to suffer on the day they arrive at the slaughterhouse, they possess that capacity their entire lives,” according to PETA attorney Matthew Penzer.

File this information under "things you need to know." Little by little, PETA and others are chipping away at their goals and your business. USDA officials don't like this activity anymore than you do. After all, it is a direct and full-blown attack on that agency. Ag Secretary Ann Veneman is not likely to be amused.

PETA may not get anywhere with this petition this time, but there will be more legal and legislative activities in PETA's future arsenal.