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USDA Closes Loopholes for Slaughtering “Downed” Calves and Cows

It's no surprise farm animals are treated horribly. But oftentimes it's the "advancements" and "victories" for these animals that highlight how screwed up it all is. Last week another advancement in the legal status of farmed animals was celebrated. The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) closed two major loopholes in its humane slaughter regulations. Now euthanasia will be be provided to spare some of the most abused farm animals from continued suffering, and inspection of animals happens sooner. Here's the deal: After existing in the factory farms and enduring transportation to the slaughter houses, many animals are "downed" - meaning, too sick or injured to even stand. Slaughtering downed adult cows for human consumption has been prohibited by FSIS for more than a decade. Their reasoning being animal welfare and food safety concerns. But this banning did not include downed calves. However, the new FSIS rule that takes effect in September, extends the same protection to the roughly 1 million young calves who are slaughtered for veal every year. Sometimes the calves are the unwanted offspring from the dairy industry, or those that have been raised for veal (meaning living in extreme confinement and fed an unhealthy low-iron diet to produce "milk-fed" veal). In any of these cases, the calves often arrive at the slaughterhouse in horribly poor health. Thanks to this new rule, the industry will have a harder time profiting off of this abuse because they will have to euthanize. Another bonus of this rule is that FSIS inspection authority begins once cows are trucked onto slaughterhouse premises. Currently this inspection begins later when they are loaded into pens. This is good because according to the USDA’s Office of Inspector General, many slaughterhouses have avoided the downer requirements by keeping the downed cows on the cargo truck, thereby avoiding inspection. By expanding upon the broad scope of FSIS’s inspection authority, the new rule should ensure that slaughter houses cannot evade the humane slaughter requirements quite as easily. At the very least, it makes it harder for them to be cruel. We still have a ways to go, but it's important to note the victories - even as small as they may seem.

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