For yet the fifth time, U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-N.Y.), has introduced legislation to ban all nonambulatory livestock from entering the food system and require that they be euthanized.
Known as Downed Animal and Food Safety Protection Act (H.R. 3704) it would require all livestock that are unable to walk at the slaughter plant to be “humanely euthanized.” If passed, the bill would amend the Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act of 1958, and would include swine.
In 2004, USDA banned nonambulatory beef and dairy cattle from entering the food supply as part the federal government’s bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or “mad cow” disease) prevention program. It was extended further in 2009 when the USDA banned the slaughtering of downed cattle, forcing them to be euthanized.
Ackerman contends that H.R. 3704 would protect the U.S. food supply from illnesses such as BSE. However, Ackerman’s bill would include slow and fatigued hogs, which make up the majority of non-ambulatory hogs that occur at market. As the National Pork Producers Council points out, those hogs typically recover when allowed a short period (20 to 30 minutes) of rest. NPPC also emphasizes that hogs do not get BSE.
“There is no food-safety risk with processing such hogs, and all non-ambulatory or fatigued hogs are inspected by USDA Food Safety Inspection Service inspectors and veterinarians for their fitness for processing and entering the human food supply,” NPPC points out. “Banning fatigued hogs would create disposal issues and affect the supply of pork products in the United States."
Ackerman’s measure has been referred to the House Committee on Agriculture, where it is pending.