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American Meat Institute Says Practices Shown in Meat Plant Video are Disturbing and in Sharp Contrast to Animal Handling Practices in Meat Industry

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The practices shown in a just-released video filmed in a meat plant in California are disturbing and stand in sharp contrast to animal handling practices in the meat industry broadly, the American Meat Institute (AMI) said today.

“We were disturbed by what we saw in the video because those practices directly conflict with our widely adopted industry best practices and because the video is simply not typical of animal handling at U.S. meat plants,” said AMI Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Janet Riley, who has staffed the Institute’s Animal Welfare Committee since 1991.

The U.S. meat industry is subject to the federal Humane Slaughter Act, originally passed in 1958. This law is the most comprehensive animal welfare law covering animal agriculture and is continuously enforced by federal inspectors who are in meat packing plants at all times. These inspectors monitor food safety and humane handling practices and enforce a variety of regulations, including a prohibition on non-ambulatory cattle entering the meat supply.

In 1991, the industry created an animal handling program that sought not just to meet regulatory requirements, but to exceed them. This effort started with a partnership with livestock welfare expert Temple Grandin, Ph.D., whose innovative approach to understanding and handling livestock has literally transformed the industry’s practices.

Grandin authored the industry’s comprehensive “Recommended Animal Handling Guidelines and Audit Guide,” originally released in 1999. That guide is endorsed by groups like the American Humane Association and Certified Humane and is widely used as a condition of business by major restaurant and retail chains. The industry also launched an annual animal welfare conference in 1999 to bring these guidelines to life through colorful and compelling instruction by Dr. Grandin and other experts. The conference occurs each year in February in Kansas City and is widely attended. In fact, Dr. Grandin was asked to review and critique the video at issue and is quoted in news reports.

The meat industry’s commitment to animal welfare was underscored when AMI’s members voted to make animal welfare a non-competitive issue in 2002. As a result, AMI member plants share good ideas and assist each other in developing and refining animal handling programs and solving challenges.

“There are ethical and economic imperatives to handle animals humanely,” Riley said. “Optimal animal handling results in better quality products but most importantly, it’s simply the right thing to do.”

She added, “We hope that in the future, when problems like this are uncovered, plant management and USDA will be notified immediately so that prompt action can be take to correct the situation. It is regrettable that the video was held for months and that the first person contacted was a reporter and not someone in a position to stop the practice immediately.”

For more information on AMI’s Guidelines, visit the Institute’s dedicated web site www.animalhandling.org.

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