September 16, 2019 Update: The White House's Office of Management and Budget completed its review of this dangerous rule, which means it's one step closer to being published in the Federal Register. Time is running out for our voices to be heard.
While slaughtering animals is inherently cruel, those employed to do it face serious risks and have some of the highest rates of injury and dismemberment of any profession. Despite this, the U.S. government is weakening industry oversight.
The government under the Trump administration is expanding the number of poultry companies that can increase slaughter line speeds. It is also proposing regulations that would eliminate caps on line speeds for pork producers and is considering the same for beef.
This could increase not only animal suffering but dangers for workers, who already toil at dizzying speeds. Faster slaughter lines would mean more accidents for workers and more animals killed haphazardly, causing them even more pain.
In a new 100-page report, Human Rights Watch details the high rates of serious injury and illness among workers at slaughter and processing plants. Of the workers interviewed who had job-related injuries and illnesses, nearly all identified production speed as the factor that made their job most dangerous.
Matt McConnell, a research fellow at Human Rights Watch, stated:
US meat and poultry workers are put under intense pressure to keep up with production, risking traumatic injury and disabling illness. By giving companies the green light to accelerate their production, the US government is putting workers’ health on the line.
Because the meat industry lacks transparency in how it reports injury rates, the extent of the dangers workers face is not fully understood. Many studies have shown differences between federal data on occupational injury and illness in the industry and the experiences of workers.
“For the USDA, this has never been about public health,” said Amanda Hitt, director of the Food Integrity Campaign at the Government Accountability Project, an advocacy group for whistleblowers. She told Bloomberg News, “This has been about enriching the very industries they are supposed to be regulating.”
Any day now, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service is expected to release a dangerous rule that would remove important regulations on pig slaughter speeds. But all is not lost. Last year the FDA denied a request by the chicken industry to remove limits on the number of animals killed per minute. Urge the USDA to protect pigs and workers by taking action HERE.
Of course, the best way to prevent this violence and death is to choose plant-based foods. Together, we can one day eliminate slaughter lines altogether.