USA – I’ve seen the hidden horrors of high-speed slaughterhouses

There is still time to stop an imminent program that would allow facilities to increase slaughter speeds, while reducing the number of trained government inspectors

A risky US Department of Agriculture (USDA) high-speed slaughter program would allow facilities to increase slaughter speeds and shift responsibility of food safety oversight into the hands of slaughter plant employees.
 A risky US Department of Agriculture (USDA) high-speed slaughter program would allow facilities to increase slaughter speeds and shift responsibility of food safety oversight into the hands of slaughter plant employees. Photograph: Gerry Broome/AP

If you care about animal welfare or food safety, this news will concern you: the nationwide expansion of a risky US Department of Agriculture (USDA) high-speed slaughter program is imminent. But the good news is there is still time to stop it.

The USDA is now accepting public comments on its proposed rule that it euphemistically dubbed the “Modernization of Swine Slaughter Inspection”. As a former undercover investigator who worked inside a pig slaughterhouse operating under the pilot project that was, at the time, called HIMP, I’ve seen firsthand the hazardous and cruel nature of this controversial program and can say with certainty that it’s anything but “modern”.

This expanded program, formally called the New Swine Slaughter Inspection System (NSIS), would allow facilities to increase slaughter speeds, while reducing the number of trained government inspectors on the lines. In other words, the responsibility of food safety oversight is largely shifted into the hands of slaughter plant employees. Combine this with faster speeds on the kill floor and the result is problems that can – and do – go unnoticed.

For nearly six months, I worked undercover inside Quality Pork Processors (QPP), no typical pig slaughterhouse. An exclusive Hormel Foods supplier, QPP kills about 1,300 pigs every hour operating under the high-speed pilot program. That’s more than 21 pigs per minute, making QPP one of the fastest pig-killing facilities in the nation.

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