Animal Rights Groups File Lawsuit Against USDA to tackle Inhumane Treatment of Poultry
On August 13, 2020, animal welfare advocates sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in a bid to compel the agency to issue rules to ensure the humane handling of poultry at slaughter plants. The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) and Farm Sanctuary filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York.
The lawsuit specifically contests USDA’s decision to reject two rulemaking petitions submitted by AWI. These petitions requested the human handling of chickens and turkeys to prevent poultry products from being adulterated as defined by the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA). AWI filed these petitions in 2013 and 2016, citing evidence that some slaughter facilities had left large flocks of birds without food and water in plant holding areas for days at a time. In these petitions, AWI noted that USDA enforcement records revealed that government inspectors document birds dying from causes that are unacceptable under the PPIA, such as exposure to extreme weather, blunt force trauma, and asphyxiation. The petitions also requested that USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) use its authority under the PPIA to issue regulations for the humane treatment of poultry at slaughterhouses, arguing inhumanely treated birds are “adulterated” under the statute. Last year, USDA denied both of AWI’s petitions noting that the PPIA does not give USDA authority to prescribe requirements for the humane handling of live birds at slaughter.
In their lawsuit, the animal welfare advocates allege that USDA has failed to address the systematic mistreatment of chickens and turkeys at federally inspected slaughterhouses. The plaintiffs also allege that the inhumane treatment of poultry also compromises food safety and meat quality. We will continue to monitor any developments.