The USDA announced Tuesday their intention to ban the slaughter of cattle that go down after initial inspection. Currently, a downed cow can be slaughtered if it is determined by a USDA inspector that the animal is still safe for consumption.

"Today I am announcing that USDA will begin working on a proposed rule to prohibit the slaughter of all disabled non-ambulatory cattle, also known as ''downer cattle,” said USDA Secretary Ed Schafer. “In other words, I am calling for the end of the exceptions in the so called ''downer rule.”

The current rule, which allows slaughter of downer animals under special situations, became controversial after USDA recalled 143 million pounds of beef. The recall was due to a video that showed downed cattle at Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co. seemingly headed to slaughter without re-inspection.

Schafer said that of the nearly 34 million cattle slaughtered last year, fewer than 1,000 that were re-inspected were actually approved by the veterinarian for slaughter. "This represents less than 0.003 percent of cattle slaughtered annually. As you can see, this number is minimal," said Schafer.

The decision comes at the end of a period of increased surveillance by USDA. The American Meat Institute and the National Meat Association applauded the USDA’s action.