Original article by Melanie Epp
In a press release last week, Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) declared a huge win for transparency and accountability, as the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) agreed to publicly disclose records related to the treatment of animals in US slaughter plants.
According to AWI, USDA agreed to publicly disclose slaughter records in order to settle a lawsuit file by the organization. A federal magistrate judge for the US District Court for the Western District of New York approved the settlement last week.
According to AWI, the 2018 complaint alleged that the USDA failed to proactively disclose records relating to the enforcement of two laws—the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act and the Poultry Products Inspection Act—as required by the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Such records expose inhumane treatment of animals at slaughter plants across the country, including incidents of workers throwing chickens and improperly stunning pigs and cattle, and transporters abandoning trucks full of animals for hours in hot weather.
“This is the biggest step in improving government transparency at slaughter since the USDA began disclosing these records pursuant to FOIA,” said Erin Sutherland, staff attorney for AWI’s farm animal program. “Thousands of slaughterhouse records are now readily available to concerned citizens and animal advocacy groups who wish to monitor USDA enforcement without waiting months or even years for the department to respond to FOIA requests.”
“The USDA’s agreement to proactively post slaughter records is a huge victory,” said Emily von Klemperer, general counsel for Farm Sanctuary. “These records routinely expose inhumane treatment of animals at slaughter facilities and are critical to our efforts to educate the public and hold the agency accountable to enforce what minimal legal protections farm animals have.”
AWI and Farm Sanctuary are suing the USDA to address the mistreatment of poultry at slaughter in a separate lawsuit. A federal judge ruled in October that the lawsuit will move forward.
Originally published on January 10, 2022 in The Pig Site