from Jai Maharaj - [email protected]
Washington, Friday, June 15, 2001 (Reuters) - Federal
meat inspectors and animal rights groups on Wednesday accused the U.S.
Agriculture Department of allowing packers to slaughter cattle and hogs
while still conscious, despite regulations mandating livestock be killed
The coalition representing 6,700 meat inspectors sent a
petition to Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman urging broader authority
to enforce the Humane Slaughter Act (HSA).
Under the act, all animals must be humanely handled and
"stunned" unconscious prior to being hoisted up on the production line.
"We are the people who are charged by Congress with
enforcing HSA, but most of our inspectors have little to no access to
those areas of the plants where animals are being handled and
slaughtered," said Arthur Hughes, president of the National Joint
Council of Food Inspection Locals.
The most brutal of these violations, the meat inspectors
said, were caused by ineffective stunning -- causing cattle to be
dismembered and hogs to be scalded while still conscious.
Chris Church, spokesman for USDA's Food Safety and
Inspection Service, said they take violations of the Humane Slaughter
Act "very seriously."
"It is the meat inspectors responsibility to enforce
these requirements," he said. "They have full authority to take any
action necessary including stopping the slaughter lines."
USDA officials said the department has bimonthly
meetings with the union of meat inspectors and complaints over humane
slaughter has never been discussed.
Church said accusations in the petition were based
primarily on complaints about an IBP Inc. beef plant in Wallula,
IBP spokesman Gary Mickelson said the company disputes
the meat inspectors' claims, pointing out that a recent state
investigation on livestock mishandling at the Wallula plant resulted in
IBP and the state of Washington announced in April a
cooperative agreement that allows state officials to continuously verify
the plant is properly handling livestock, Mickelson said.
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