If you can always ask, you can always ask again. And asking again is the tactic the Animal Welfare Institute is taking with USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).  

In May 2023, the Animal Welfare Institute, Compassion in World Farming, the Humane Society of the United States, Humane Society Legislative Fund, Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, and World Animal Protection filed a petition requesting that FSIS conduct rule-making to require swine slaughter establishments that use carbon dioxide stunning to install video cameras inside their stunning areas.

The petition was assigned to the FSIS Office of Policy and Program Development for review. It was given petition number 23-05. It also gained some endorsements but only silence from FSIS.

So, with the passage of a full year, the Animal Welfare Institute decided to try again to persuade FSIS for a favorable outcome.

“Please grant the petition (#23-05) filed by the Animal Welfare Institute and other animal protection organizations more than a year ago on May 16, 2023. It asks FSIS to require pig slaughter plants to install cameras inside the gondolas used to stun or kill more than 100 million pigs with carbon dioxide (CO2) gas each year.”

The May 31, 2024, request from the Animal Welfare Institute continues by making the following points:

— This would be an essential yet relatively small step for slaughter plants, particularly those that already use video monitoring equipment in other areas of their facilities.

— The absence of cameras in CO2 gondolas violates federal law. The Federal Meat Inspection Act and the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act require FSIS inspectors to observe all slaughter methods to determine whether they are being conducted humanely. 

— Without the ability to observe pigs while being gassed with CO2, inspectors cannot assess whether or to what extent the method is “rapid and effective,” as required by law.

— In early 2023, activists released undercover footage from a camera hidden inside a stunning CO2 gondola in a U.S. pork plant. The video showed groups of pigs in the cage squealing and struggling violently for nearly a minute before finally losing consciousness. 

— Since then, undercover videos taken in the United Kingdom and Australia have similarly revealed pigs in agony while being stunned with CO2. Even the Meat Institute’s recently updated animal handling guidelines acknowledge that “there are inconsistent results on how swine react to the induction of CO2 anesthesia,” highlighting the importance of enabling inspectors to watch pigs during slaughter.

In its new letter, it urges FSIS to grant the petition and initiate rule-making to require pig slaughter establishments to install cameras inside their CO2 stunning areas so that the entire interior of the gondola and the animals held within remain visible to FSIS inspectors at all times during the slaughter operation.

During the past year, others who have commented on the petition include the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), Vegan Finance LLC, and Animal Partisan.

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