WASHINGTON, March 19, 2013 – The Humane Society of the United States announced today that the Agriculture Department has granted its 2009 legal petition requesting the agency halt the “inhumane practice” of slaughtering downer veal calves too sick, weak or tired to even stand up.

The petition asked the USDA to close a loophole in federal regulations that “allows downer calves to be kept alive indefinitely, leaves calves prone to cruel dragging, and incentivizes other abuses at slaughter facilities.”

The organization said the USDA has not announced when it would issue a proposed rule to implement the decision.

“We are pleased the USDA is finally moving to address the serious animal welfare and food safety concerns associated with the slaughter of downer calves,” said Jonathan Lovvorn, senior vice president for animal protection litigation and investigations at the Humane Society. “We urge the agency to move forward on this issue to protect young calves from inhumane handling and slaughter, and revise its regulations without further delay.”

The organization said the petition was filed in the wake of its undercover investigation that showed employees at a Vermont slaughterhouse “kicking and shocking downer veal calves in their faces, necks and torsos in an effort to force these infant animals off trucks and into holding pens.”

The organization said the treatment regularly occurred in front of a USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service inspector, who failed to take any remedial action or halt the abuse. After the investigation, the plant was shut down and the owner and one of his employees subsequently pleaded guilty to charges of animal cruelty and were barred from participating in slaughterhouse activity involving live animals.


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