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Animal Equality Launches Formal Campaign Against Increasing Slaughter Line Speeds

New campaign page offers animal advocates opportunities to get involved and stay informed

Over the past several years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been taking steps to lift caps on slaughterhouse processing speeds. This is a major disaster for farmed animal welfare: Faster line speeds don’t just mean more animals are killed per hour—they also mean a higher incidence of improper stunning and inhumane handling, as workers rush to move animals off transport trucks and through the slaughter process at breakneck speeds. 

The meat industry wants unlimited discretion over how fast to run its slaughter lines, and it will continue pushing government regulators on this point. Therefore, Animal Equality has made slaughter line speeds the focus of an ongoing campaign and will continue to push back against industry efforts as they unfold.

GETTING UP TO SPEED: In December 2019, Animal Equality filed a lawsuit against the USDA for removing the limit on the number of pigs a slaughterhouse could process per hour. That lawsuit is still pending. Then, not six months later, the coronavirus hit the United States—and it hit slaughterhouse workers particularly hard. Fast-moving slaughter lines require a lot of people to process the slaughtered animals’ bodies into various cuts of meat. Employees forced to work shoulder-to-shoulder in crowded conditions were like sitting ducks for catching the virus. And sure enough, when one person at a plant became infected, it spread like wildfire.

As workers fell ill, many slaughter plants had to temporarily shut down or reduce their operations. Supply chains backed up as a result, and animals scheduled for slaughter had nowhere to go. Heart-wrenching footage obtained by undercover investigators documented the horrific result—millions of animals “depopulated” (killed en masse) using incredibly cruel methods, such as ventilation shutdown. This is precisely what happens when an industry pushes an already overtaxed system beyond its limits in pursuit of endless profit. 

Yet, even as this disaster unfolded, USDA continued pushing forward with its planned line-speed increases, as if everything was operating business-as-usual. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue pressured plants to stay open despite the clear danger to workers and the devastation for barnfulls of animals.

CONGRESS HOLDS THE KEY: Thankfully, several federal lawmakers have taken notice of USDA’s blatant refusal to do anything to ameliorate the situation. The agency’s priority is clearly to protect the meat companies—not the workers, and certainly not the animals. So, earlier this year, Representative Marcia Fudge and Senator Cory Booker introduced legislation designed to force USDA’s hand—to make sure the agency actually does the right thing and prioritizes the health and welfare of workers and animals over the industry’s already well-lined pockets. 

That bill, which has not progressed through Congress, would have provided critical short-term protections. However, it would have only temporarily stemmed the tide of a deregulatory process that has been decades in the making, fueled by the meat industry’s incessant pressure on USDA to allow it to operate its slaughterhouses at faster and faster speeds. To counteract the message of powerful industry lobbyists, your elected officials need to hear from you on this issue!

THE LONG HAUL: Even once the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us, the threat of faster line speeds will remain. This deregulation is clearly a priority for the industry, and major meat companies aren’t going to give up easily. The pork industry already got their limitless line speeds, and even now, with the pandemic still raging, the USDA is preparing to publish similar plans for the poultry and beef industries. As this process unfolds, Animal Equality will keep fighting, but we will need your help.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Please visit our Slaughter Line Speeds campaign page for more information and opportunities to take action. You can also share this informational video with your friends and family, to make sure they are aware of the industry’s endless efforts.