Poor Reflections

More Transparency for Slaughter Facilities


By Victoria G Myers, Progressive Farmer/DTN



USDA has been ordered to be more open when it comes to publishing data on inhumane slaughter procedures across the U.S. The increased transparency is being heralded among animal-rights advocates, who will likely use the data to foster support as they build a case against animal agriculture.


Operations that slaughter production animals in the U.S. are required to routinely share records with USDA regarding the enforcement of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act. It's a law that goes back to the 1950s, with the most recently passed version, and the one enforced today by USDA, having been passed in 1978. The act requires proper treatment and humane handling of all food animals slaughtered in USDA-inspected plants. Poultry handling is covered under the Poultry Inspection Act.


USDA has not always been timely in its release of this information to the public, causing groups like Farm Sanctuary and the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) to file complaints in court over the agency's failure to proactively disclose records under the act. These groups heralded what they called a "huge win for transparency and accountability" last week when USDA publicly agreed to disclose records tied to the treatment of animals in U.S. plants.


The agreement came as part of a settlement to release the records, approved by a federal magistrate for the U.S. District Court in New York. The judge also ordered USDA to pay all plaintiffs' attorney costs. USDA had sought to dismiss the case in 2019.


Erin Sutherland, staff attorney for AWI, said this was a big step in improving government transparency in this area of the law.


"Thousands of slaughterhouse records are now readily available to concerned citizens and animal advocacy groups who wish to monitor USDA enforcement without waiting months or even years for the department to respond to FOIA (Freedom of Information Act requests)," she said.


Farm Sanctuary's general counsel, Emily von Klemperer, added...