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May 12, 2014

Dozen Senators to USDA: Ban Slaughter of Downer Calves

Animals Unable to Stand Should Not Go into Food Supply

Twelve Senators led by Sens. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, and Cory Booker, D-N.J., are calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to close a loophole in federal regulations that allows downer calves – those too sick, injured or weak to stand on their own – to be slaughtered for food. The loophole encourages abuse as workers drag, kick and prod the animals in an attempt to get them to stand for inspection. The senators’ letter follows a slaughter plant shutdown in New Jersey triggered by a Humane Society of the United States investigation.

In March 2013, the USDA granted a 2009 HSUS legal petition requesting an end to the inhumane practice of slaughtering downer veal calves, consistent with the agency’s rule for adult downer cattle, but USDA has not yet moved forward on this. The petition was filed in the wake of another HSUS undercover investigation that showed employees at a Vermont slaughterhouse kicking and shocking downer veal calves—some days old with their umbilical cords still attached—in their faces, necks and torsos in an effort to force these infant animals off trucks and into holding pens.  

The Senate letter states: “It has now been more than four years since HSUS requested this common-sense change, yet not even a proposed rule has been issued.  Keeping disabled calves alive to suffer in pens is not only inhumane but also poses serious food safety threats.”

The 12 Senators who signed this letter are:

  • Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii
  • Cory Booker, D-N.J.
  • Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.
  • Carl Levin, D-Mich.
  • Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.
  • Robert Menendez, D-N.J.
  • Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.
  • Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.
  • Jack Reed, D-R.I.
  • Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.
  • Edward Markey, D-Mass.
  • Richard Durbin, D-Ill.

A similar House letter led by Reps. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., and Carol Shea-Porter, D-N.H., was co-signed by 72 Members of Congress and sent to USDA in February.

“USDA should not tolerate the abuse of calves too sick, injured or weak to stand, and these young calves should have the same protections already given to adult cattle,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO for The HSUS. “This cruelty has been exposed in two HSUS investigations and it’s time for USDA to address this serious humane and food safety issue.”  The HSUS expresses its thanks to Sens. Schatz and Booker for their leadership in pressing USDA to close this loophole.


Media Contact: Anna West, awest@humanesociety.org, 240-751-2669 

 

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