Animal rights group criticizes Philly regional office for farm enforcement

Pigs are seen at a farm in Indiana April 20, 2012. Credit: REUTERS/John Gress Pigs are seen at a farm in Indiana April 20, 2012. Credit: REUTERS/John Gress

Is Philadelphia second-worst in the nation for humane law enforcement of meat-packers?

Farm Sanctuary, an animal rights activism group, sent a letter Thursday criticizing the enforcement practices of the Philadelphia regional office of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

The letter claims that the FSIS issued a “noncompliance report” (NR) for incidents that should have merited a suspension, a $1,000 fine and punishment up to one year in jail — and Farm Sanctuary says that the Philly regional FSIS has the 2nd highest rate in the country of NRs where suspensions were merited, after Des Moines, Iowa.

In one instance at a Souderton, Pa. meat packing plant, an FSIS observed an employee unsuccessfully use a “captive bolt stunner” three times on a dairy cow before rendering it unconscious. The plant got an NR.

“This NR documents a variety of egregious violations of federal law and an animal in absolute agony … Would you please explain to us why this violation did not qualify [for a suspension]?” the letter asks.

In August 2013, a pig with its throat slit at a Hazleton, Pa. plant, regained consciousness, and had to re-stunned while on the “bleed rail,” leading to an NR.

Farm Sanctuary called it “an egregious violation of federal law that warranted suspension.”

FSIS said in a statement that they will refer the cases that Farm Sanctuary cited in their letter to the Office of Investigation, Enforcement and Audit (OIEA).

“FSIS takes every measure possible to verify that livestock slaughter establishments have systems in place to ensure the humane handling of animals,” the USDA FSIS in Washington, D.C. said in a statement.

The USDA introduced their new “FSIS Compliance Guide for a Systematic Approach to the Humane Handling of Livestock” to explain how meat packers should handle livestock to guarantee humane treatment of animals and regarding other issues in October 2013.

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