The Humane Society of the United State is suing the U.S. Department of Agriculture in an attempt to tighten the rule on slaughtering sick or injured livestock.  The HSUS alleges that the rule contains a loophole which violates the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act and the Federal Meat Inspection Act.

The animal rights group contends that the rule allows packing plants to slaughter disabled livestock for food rather than having them euthanized. An undercover video taken by the Humane Society made of cattle being mistreated at a California slaughterhouse recently led to the largest meat recall in U.S. history.

“USDA has in recent weeks assured the public that sick and crippled cattle are not allowed to enter the food supply, but the agency’s regulations actually contradict that assertion,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive of the Humane Society. Cattle that are too sick and injured to walk are banned from being slaughtered for food, under a USDA rule that is a safeguard against mad cow disease.

However, there is an exception for livestock that become disabled after being approved by a USDA veterinarian at the plant site if the veterinarian later determines that the animals are still healthy. The Humane Society argues that the exception encourages plant workers to force an ill or injured animal to stand up.

The meat is still barred by USDA from being supplied to the school lunch program, under the department’s purchasing rules. The Hallmark/Westland plant supplied 20 percent of the ground beef used in the lunch program. More than one-third of the 143 million pounds of recalled beef was intended for schools.

USDA officials say the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co. violated its rules by failing to consult the USDA veterinarian before slaughtering a disabled cow. They say that plants that ignore the rules risk paying the penalty Hallmark/Westland paid — a massive meat recall and plant shutdown.

Source: Des Moines Register