A petition submitted to USDA today by a host of animal rights and labor groups is unnecessary and designed to attract publicity for the petitioners’ causes. The petition asks USDA to enforce the Humane Slaughter Act, a law that is already enforced aggressively in meat packing plants by inspectors who are present during every moment of operation and who are fully empowered to take action against companies for animal welfare violations.
The meat packing industry is regulated and inspected more aggressively for its animal welfare practices than any other sector of animal agriculture. Beyond strict regulation, strong incentives exist to treat animals humanely. Humanely treated animals create safer workplaces and better quality meat products. Treating animals with respect is also “the right thing to do.” Data collected by USDA and Dr. Temple Grandin of Colorado State University (www.grandin.com) show that animal welfare practices in meat packing plants have improved dramatically over the last five years thanks to voluntary training and self-auditing efforts by the meat industry. The data stand in stark contrast to the outrageous anecdotes outlined in the petition.
It is important to note that the credibility of some of the petitioners is in serious doubt. In fact, a State of Washington investigation released in April 2001 determined that the Humane Farming Association had edited “undercover video” from a meat packing plant prior to distributing it to media so that many actions taken by a company to correct animal welfare problems were not depicted. “All evidence developed by HFA was discredited,” the report said. The prosecuting attorney involved in the investigation “determined there was no evidence showing that the alleged offenses were solicited or tolerated” by the company, according to the report.
The National Joint Council of Food Inspection Locals, which represents USDA-employed meat inspectors, has been locked in a battle with USDA because it fears that the incorporation of science based principles into the federal meat inspection system may threaten jobs - a fear that has not been realized. While jobs have changed, none have been lost.
And, the American Medical Association describes another one of the petitioners, The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), as a group which “serves only to advance the agenda of activist groups interested in perverting medical science.” A visit to PCRM’s web site show’s that its agenda is to oppose the laboratory use of animals and to limit or eliminate meat consumption.
An estimated 93 to 98 percent of Americans eat meat and poultry. They reasonably expect meat to be derived from humanely treated animals. We work hard to meet their expectations every day. Animal rights groups, on the other hand, want to eliminate this dietary choice.
This petition is really about two issues: promoting a vegetarian agenda and perpetuating government jobs. By teaming up, animal groups and labor unions are hoping to advance each other’s agendas and generate publicity for their causes while needlessly alarming the public in the process. USDA, media and consumers must consider the source when evaluating the merits and integrity of this petition.
AMI represents the interests of packers and processors of beef, pork, lamb, veal and turkey products and their suppliers throughout North America. Headquartered in Washington, DC, the Institute provides legislative, regulatory and public relations services, conducts scientific and economic research, offers marketing and technical assistance and sponsors education programs.