Secretary Purdue urged to curb use of extreme animal depopulation measures amid meat plant closures

21 US Congress members wrote to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue this week, urging his department to curb extreme “depopulation” measures, including ventilator shutdown and water-based foam methods.
calendar icon 6 May 2020
clock icon 3 minute read

As the COVID-19 pandemic places unique pressures on food supply chains in the United States, US Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Chairman of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, led Members in urging the Department of Agriculture to curb the extreme measures for “depopulation” at some animal slaughter facilities. Their letter raises concerns about mass suffocation of animals who are being quickly cleared from facilities and urges use of more humane practices.

“While remaining acutely focused on the safety of meat processing industry workers, I am also alarmed by the use of heat exposure, mass suffocation, and drowning, which cause animals unnecessary suffering,” said Congressman Doggett. “How we treat animals is a reflection of our humanity. Every effort should be made to get food to those in need instead of wasting it. If depopulation of these farm animals is necessary, the USDA should act promptly to prevent the use of these most inhumane methods.”

“The National Pork Producers Council,” the Members write in the letter, “reports that due to lack of access to processing, the industry could be forced to cull upwards of 700,000 pigs a week, while millions of birds raised for poultry have already been killed because of this same issue.”

The Members detail the concerns with ventilator shutdown and water-based foam methods: “When executed with heat, ventilation shutdown for poultry and pigs causes animals to die by hyperthermia. However, ventilation systems often fail, instead causing animals to slowly die from suffocation caused by the high levels of carbon dioxide and other gases that quickly accumulate in the barns. The process is inhumane, distressing, and painful for the animals who can take many hours to die.”

Read the full letter signed by US Congress members.

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