Has USDA Told the Truth About Worker Safety?

by Stuart McDonald

As the USDA continues attempts to pass a dangerous new high-speed pig slaughter rule, things are getting heated. After outcry from worker, food safety, and animal groups, as well as US legislators, the USDA’s Office of the Inspector General will be conducting a probe of the agency to see if it concealed information and used flawed data on worker injury rates to push the line speed rule forward. 

If implemented, this rule will have disastrous consequences for slaughterhouse workers, food safety, and of course, animals. As a Compassion Over Killing investigation at a plant exclusively supplying Hormel exposed, reckless line speeds exacerbate the already immense suffering. With lines moving at a shocking speed of 1,300 animal deaths per hour, COK’s investigator documented pigs being beaten, shocked, dragged, and improperly stunned, as workers did their best to keep up.

Despite the obvious dangers of speeding up an already horrifically dangerous industry, the USDA maintains that worker injury rates would be lower under in high-speed plants than at speed-limited plants. But this just doesn’t make sense! As the Washington Post reports, “Sen. Richard J. Durbin (Ill.), the second-highest-ranking Senate Democrat, and more than a dozen other Democrats sought the inspector general’s probe after two university experts reviewed the USDA’s data and analysis and concluded ‘it is impossible’ for the department to ‘draw any statistically valid conclusion about worker injury rate differences’.”

Additionally, these data were not released until after the public comment period for the new rule–which resulted in a vast majority of respondents being against the rule. The New York Times editorial board even took a formal stance against it, writing that “the government — rather astonishingly — has maintained the [fast-speed] pilot program for two decades without proving that it works.”

The American people have reached a consensus that slaughterhouses are no place for a race. The rule’s only supporters seem to be the USDA and profit-driven animal agriculture industry, and it’s time to hold them accountable.

The USDA should protect workers, consumers, and animals, not magnify the suffering at slaughterhouses, by killing this rule entirely. But the best way to protect workers, animals, and your own health is to stop supporting this exploitative and dangerous industry altogether. Leave animals off your plate.

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