FINAL FSIS Petition Comments

April 8, 2011

Washington, April 8, 2011 

Click here for PDF Version.  [[[pdf]]]]

To Whom It May Concern:

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) welcomes the opportunity to comment on the
petition submitted by Farm Sanctuary to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety
Inspection Service (FSIS) to amend the ante-mortem inspection regulations to prohibit the
slaughter of non-ambulatory swine.

NPPC represents 43 state pork producers associations and America’s 67,000 pork producers.
The pork industry is responsible for more than 550,000 jobs across America and $34.5 billion in
gross domestic product. U.S. pork producers would agree with Farm Sanctuary that animal
welfare, human health and food safety are key factors in ethical pork production as evident by
the ethical principles that serve as the basis for the pork industry’s We Care initiative. Banning
the slaughter of non-ambulatory hogs, however, would not only eliminate approximately 66
million pounds of safe and wholesome pork from the food chain but would also go against the
available scientific evidence and provide no added benefit to animal welfare, human health or
food safety.

We have reviewed the available scientific literature examining the animal welfare and food
safety aspects of non-ambulatory swine, as well as current U.S. laws and regulations in place for
slaughter of animals for human consumption. From this information, it is evident that the Farm
Sanctuary petition1 is neither based on science nor does the proposed action provide any positive
benefit for animal welfare or food safety but instead would have serious negative effects on U.S
pork producers. Congress has come to the same conclusion in recent years when asked to ban
non-ambulatory swine from entering the food supply. All attempted congressional actions,
through numerous avenues such as the 2008 Farm Bill, the Food Safety Enhancement Act of
2009 and several appropriations bills, have failed because of the lack of scientific evidence
linking non-ambulatory hogs to potential food-safety risks. Farm Sanctuary and other
organizations now have taken their demands to the U.S. Department of Agriculture since all
congressional efforts have failed.

1 Farm Sanctuary. Petition to amend 9 C.F.R. §309.3(e) to prohibit the slaughter of non-ambulatory hogs, sheep,
goats and other livestock and to require that such animals be humanely euthanized.
http://www.fsis.usda.gov/PDF/Petition_Humane_Handling.pdf. Accessed 2 March 2011.

Current Regulation and Enforcement

By direction of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act and 9 CFR 3132, FSIS inspection program
personnel have the authority to monitor the lairage facilities for humane handling practices and
the stunning area for humane handling and slaughter practices. Inspection program personnel
observe the handling of animals to see that:

2 US Code of Federal Regulation. Title 9 Parts 313.
http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_01/9cfr313_01.html. accessed 2 March 2011

3 USDA, FSIS Notice 19-10 http://www.fsis.usda.gov/OPPDE/rdad/FSISNotices/19-10.pdf, accessed 25 March
2011

4 USDA, FSIS Directive 6900.2 http://www.fsis.usda.gov/OPPDE/rdad/FSISDirectives/6900.2Rev1.pdf, accessed 2
March 2011

5 USDA, FSIS Directive 6100.1 http://www.fsis.usda.gov/OPPDE/rdad/FSISDirectives/6100.1.pdf, accessed 2
March 2011

.
Animals are not forced to move faster than a normal walking pace and that they are
moved with minimum excitement and discomfort.
.
Goads are being used properly, especially electric prods.
.
Any livestock that become disabled are handled humanely.
.
All animals have access to water and access to feed if held longer than 24 hours.
.
Sufficient space is available in the holding pen, and animals are not being overcrowded.
.
Approved stunning methods are applied effectively to animals prior to their being
shackled, hoisted, thrown, cast or cut.

Additionally, as stated in the FR notice, “an egregious situation is any act that is cruel to animals
or a condition that is ignored and leads to the harm of animals such as making cuts on or
skinning conscious animals, excessive beating or prodding of ambulatory or non-ambulatory
disabled animals, dragging conscious animals, driving animals off semi-trailers over a drop off
without providing adequate unloading facilities, running equipment over animals, stunning of
animals and then allowing them to regain consciousness, multiple attempts, especially in the
absence of immediate corrective measures, to stun an animal verses a single blow or shot,
dismembering live animals, such as removing feet from live animals, disabled livestock left
exposed to adverse climate conditions while awaiting disposition or any other condition or action
that intentionally causes unnecessary pain and suffering to animals, including situations on
trucks.3”

If inspection program personnel observe an incident of inhumane handling or slaughter, they are
to inform the operator of the plant of the incident and request that the operator take the necessary
steps to immediately remedy the situation as well as to prevent a recurrence. If this action does
not correct the problem, or if action is not taken to correct the problem promptly, the inspection
program personnel shall attach a “U.S. Rejected” tag to the equipment, alleyway and/or pen
associated with the problem. The tagged equipment, alleyway and/or pen cannot be used until
the problem is corrected and the inspector removes the tag.4

Furthermore, all animals destined for slaughter must be presented for ante-mortem inspection to
FSIS inspectors as directed under the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) and FSIS Directive
6100.1.5 During the ante-mortem inspection, inspection program personnel observe livestock
both at rest and in motion and specifically observe:

.
The overall condition of the animal, including the head, with attention to the eyes, the legs
and the body of the animal.
.
The degree of alertness, mobility and breathing.
.
Whether there are any unusual swellings or any other abnormalities.

Inspection program personnel are to pass for slaughter livestock that do not show signs of
disease or abnormalities and that are fit to slaughter for human consumption.6 Hogs that are
slow or fatigued and are lying down are segregated and protected from other ambulatory hogs to
avoid the potential for inhumane handling. The vast majority of plants have a systematic
approach for handling and moving fatigued or slow hogs. These hogs may be kept with their
original group, or a sub-group of fatigued hogs may be assembled from multiple arriving herds.
Fatigued hogs may be humanely moved to the stun area or may be humanely stunned in the ante-
mortem pen area and then immediately moved to the sticking area. Regardless of plant protocol
for fatigued hogs, all animals must undergo ante-mortem inspection by inspection program
personnel.7

6 US Code of Federal Regulation. Title 9 Parts 309.
http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_01/9cfr309_01.html. accessed 2 March 2011

7 USDA, FSIS. 2009. Proper Humane Handling of Slow vs. “US Suspect” Swine. http://askfsis.custhelp.com/cgi-
bin/askfsis.cfg/php/enduser/std_adp.php?p_faqid=1161&p_created=1233780174&p_sid=EcIhc*hk&p_accessibility=0&p_redirect=&p_srch=1&p_lva=&p_sp=cF9zcmNoPTEmcF9zb3J0X2J5PSZwX2dyaWRzb3J0PSZwX3Jvd19jbnQ9MTAsMTAmcF9wcm9kcz01NiZwX2NhdHM9MCZwX3B2PTEuNTYmcF9jdj0mcF9wYWdlPTEmcF9ZWFyY2hfdGV4dD1zd2luZQ!!&p_li=&p_topview=1. Accessed 20 December 2010.

8 See supra notes 2-5

The Farm Sanctuary petition cites several Noncompliance Records (NRs) issued by FSIS
inspectors because of inhumane handling practices. These cited acts are in clear violation of
federal law as well as industry standards and are unacceptable. The U.S. pork industry
recognizes and affirms its obligation to protect and promote animal welfare by providing proper
care, handling and transport for hogs at each stage of life, including the slaughter process. The
U.S. pork industry does not condone the actions described in the cited NRs. U.S. pork producers
are disturbed when we hear about them and continue to try harder to avoid non-ambulatory hogs
during each delivery.

The authors of the petition draw the conclusion from these NRs that there is an economic
incentive for this behavior. They go on to say that “there is little incentive for transporters,
handlers, and slaughterhouse workers to provide proper care throughout any stage of the process,
because even if a hog becomes downed, it is still eligible for slaughter.” U.S. pork producers
strongly contest this conclusion considering that:

.
Improper animal handling at a federally inspected slaughter plant results in FSIS
inspectors issuing a noncompliance report. Furthermore, inhumane acts considered to be
egregious result in immediate suspension of inspection.8 No federally inspected slaughter
facility can operate with a suspension of inspection, therefore, resulting in an economic
loss for the packer and producer and a potential animal welfare risk for the livestock.
.
Most all major packing plants have a written animal welfare policy. A violation of this
policy by an animal handler is grounds for reprimand up to and including termination of
employment. Loss of employment does not incentivize inhumane handling.

.
A transporter who commits an act of egregious animal handling is often banned from
returning to that particular facility as well as any other facility the packing company
owns. This loss of employment does not incentivize inhumane handling.
.
It is well documented in the scientific literature that poor handling of animals prior to
slaughter has a direct negative impact on the quality of the meat. Pre-handling stress can
impact the color, texture and water holding capacity of the meat, making the product
undesirable to consumers. Poor animal handling can also result in bruising that increases
carcass trim loss. Poor meat quality and increased carcass trim loss contribute to the
economic losses associated with poor animal handling. This results in economic loss to
both the packer and pork producer and does not incentivize inhumane handling.
.
Generally, packing plants reduce payment for non-ambulatory animals, resulting in
financial loss. Not only does the producer bear the loss of the animal, but having non-
ambulatory animals is perceived as a negative and a failure of the producer’s delivery
practices.

It is also important to note that the cited Noncompliance Records were issued between 2002 and
2005. Significant changes in the FSIS’s inspection process have occurred in the six to nine years
since these NRs were issued. FSIS inspectors have put more emphasis on animal handling
inspection, especially since 2008, and have received clarification and training regarding what
information they are to record in the Humane-handling Activities Tracking (HAT) system under
the Electronic Animal Disposition Report System (eADRS). The HAT system provides FSIS
with data on the time FSIS personnel spend verifying that humane handling and slaughter
requirements are met as well as with specific information on how that time is spent among nine
categories.9

9 See supra note 3

10 National Pork Board, Transport Quality Assurance program
http://www.pork.org/filelibrary/TQAAdvisor/TQA4Manual.pdf, accessed 2 March 2011

11 Temple Grandin, Recommended Animal Handling Guidelines & Audit Guide: A Systematic Approach to Animal
Welfare, 2010 Edition. http://www.animalhandling.org/ht/a/GetDocumentAction/i/63215 accessed 2 March 2011

The industry itself has also made improvements in animal handling and transportation. The pork
industry’s Transport Quality Assurance® (TQA™) program was introduced in 2002 and has been
updated regularly to include the most current scientific information. The TQA program provides
guidelines on handling, loading, transport and unloading of all sizes of hogs. Specifically, these
guidelines address basic handling, managing temperature, preventing heat and cold stress, use of
driving tools and low-stress loading and unloading.10 More than 26,000 producers, handlers and
transporters have been certified in this education program. Additionally, the American Meat
Institute recently added a new transportation audit to its existing audit program. The AMI
Transportation Audit monitors trucks as they arrive at plants to ensure timely arrival and
unloading, looks at livestock and truck conditions and ensures the unloading is handled
humanely.11

Additional testament that the swine industry has greatly improved animal handling since 2002 is
the decrease in the incidence of market swine condemned ante-mortem for deads in USDA-
inspected plants.12

12 FSIS, Market swine condemned ante-mortem for deads in USDA-inspected plants for the calendar years of 1991-
2008. FOIA Case 07-148; 08-120; 09-00071.

13 Anderson, D.B, et al., 2002. Physiological responses of market hogs to different handling practices. Pages 399-
400 in Proceedings of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, Kansas City, Mo.

14 Ellis, M., et al., 2004. Handling fatigued hogs. Proceedings of the International Meat Animal Welfare Research
Conference, Kansas City, MO.

15 Ritter, M., et al., 2005. The fatigued hog syndrome. J. Anim. Sci. 83(Suppl. 1):258. (Abstr.)

The U.S. pork industry is committed to understanding the causes and preventing the incidence of
transport losses. The Pork Checkoff, using producer monies, has had animal handling and
transport as a research priority since 2002 and has spent more than $1 million on transport-
related research projects. The information garnered from these projects is used to develop
education and awareness materials for producers, load out crews, transporters and plant workers
to help reduce and eliminate the occurrence of fatigued hogs.

Biology of the Fatigued Hog

It is important to understand the physiological and immunological differences among hogs, cattle
and other ruminants when considering the proposed amendment to current regulations. Hogs
that arrive at the slaughter plant are classified as either ambulatory (able to walk about) or non-
ambulatory. A non-ambulatory hog is one that is unable to move or keep up with its
contemporaries at the packing plant.13 There are several terms used throughout the industry for
non-ambulatory hogs, and these terms include: cripples, downers, slows, fatigued, stressors,
subjects and suspects. There are two common types of non-ambulatory hogs observed under
commercial conditions: non-ambulatory, non-injured (NANI, fatigued) and non-ambulatory,
injured (NAI).14 Fatigued hogs are ones that without obvious injury, trauma or disease fall
behind contemporaries or refuse to take multiple steps at any stage of the marketing process from
loading at the farm to stunning at the plant.15 This is a temporary condition that is self-correcting
if the hogs are given time to rest. Meanwhile, NAI hogs are hogs that have a compromised

ability to move because of structural unsoundness or an injury sustained during the marketing
process, such as broken limbs.16

16 Ellis, M. and M. Ritter. 2005. Impact of animal handling and transport conditions on losses of slaughter weight
swine during transport. Pages 199-202 in Proceedings of the American Association of Swine Veterinarians
Toronto, Canada.

17 Ivers, D.J., et al., 2002. Physiological comparison of downer and non-downer hogs following transportation and
unloading at a packing plant. J. Anim. Sci 80(Suppl. 2):39. (Abstr.)

18 Ritter, M.J., et al., 2006. Effect of floor space during transport of market weight hogs on incidence of transport
losses (dead and fatigued hogs) at the packing plant and relationships between transport conditions and losses. J.
Anim. Sci. 84:2856-2864.

19 Ellis, M., et al., 2003. Analysis of the current situation: what the downers cost the industry and what can we do
about it? Pages 1-3 in Proceedings of the 4th American Meat Science Association Pork Quality Symposium,
Columbia, MO.

20 Ritter, M.J., et al., 2009. Transport Losses in Market Weight Hogs: I. A Review of Definitions, Incidence, and
Economic Impact. Prof. Anim. Sci. 25:404-414.

Hogs that become fatigued have experienced a stressor or combination of stressors, such as the
factors listed below, that they must elicit a stress response to be able to cope. Researchers have
evaluated the differences in blood chemistries between fatigued hogs and normal hogs.17 They
concluded that fatigued hogs exhibited physical and physiological signs of acute stress. Given a
chance, these animals have a reasonable expectation to recover from the stress response and
return to homeostasis, or baseline. Studies have shown that the hogs classified as NANI return to
baseline and recover if allowed to rest for at least 2 to 3 hours.18

The cause of a hog becoming fatigued is a multi-factorial phenomenon.19 Fatigued hogs may be
influenced by such factors as genetics, live weight, muscling, gender, diet, gut-fill, health status
and previous handling experiences; facility design, including production system, aisle width,
distance moved during loading, resting rooms and loading ramps; people, including handling
intensity and handling device; transportation, including trailer design, mixing during transport,
transport floor space, transport time/distance and transport conditions; plant, including waiting
time prior to unloading, unloading procedures, lairage time and line speed; and environment,
including season, temperature and relative humidity. Any one or a combination of these factors
can contribute to a hog becoming fatigued, making the solution and regulatory response to this
phenomenon more complex than just focusing on animal handling as the petition authors would
suggest.

There are no national statistics for the incidence of non-ambulatory hogs at U.S. packing plants
currently available. However, the authors of the petition “estimate that the annual number of
non-ambulatory swine is at least 850,000, nearly twice the number of downed cattle” based on
one scientific field study. This is an overestimation based on nationwide estimates, and the
comparison to cattle is distorted. The results of the field study cited by the petition authors were
used in a larger analysis to estimate the industry-wide occurrence of non-ambulatory hogs. A
survey of 23 commercial field trials conducted from 2003 to 2007, involving more than
6,660,000 hogs, reported a weighted average of 0.44 percent of non-ambulatory hogs across
trials. Additionally, 18 of the 23 studies, involving nearly 5 million hogs, further classified non-
ambulatory hogs as injured or fatigued. Results showed that the overall average of fatigued hogs
at the plant was 0.37 percent and 0.05 percent injured.20 Using this national incidence rate along

with 2009 hog slaughter statistics would suggest that the annual number of non-ambulatory
swine to be about 500,000, however, the majority of these hogs, when rested, become
ambulatory. While this number is still higher than those estimated in cattle, there are more than
110 million hogs brought to slaughter annually, making the overall percentage of hogs that
become non-ambulatory less than half of the percentage of cattle that do.

Additionally, allowing immediate euthanasia of non-ambulatory animals will weaken the ability
to detect early diseases and a method of comprehensive surveillance. FSIS Public Health
Veterinarians (PHVs) in a slaughter facility have the responsibility of conducting ante-mortem
inspection of hogs and post-mortem inspection of the carcasses on up to thousands of animals
each day. For that reason, they play a vital role in detecting reportable and foreign animal
diseases.27 Should any foreign animal disease occur, these inspection program personnel are the
first line of defense. Inspection program personnel lose this critical opportunity for detecting
diseases when the animals are euthanized before inspection occurs.

Human Health and Food Safety

The physiology, immunology and processing practices unique to each species play a role in the
risks, or lack thereof, of non-ambulatory hogs entering the food chain. Generalization of species
and conditions does a disservice to the on-going efforts in the U.S. pork industry to monitor
animal health and control food safety. The scientific facts are important as they show fatigued
swine are not a food-safety risk and science-based handling practices will help control food-
safety pathogens.

The petition authors raise baseless concerns over the health status of non-ambulatory hogs,
primarily transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) and the risk this poses to public
health. TSEs are transmitted by prions, which cannot be transmitted through air or through
touching or most other forms of normal contact. However, they may be transmitted through
contact with infected central nervous tissue. The ban on non-ambulatory cattle was put in place
to protect the public from health risks associated with Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy
(BSE) and to prevent the spread of the disease in U.S. cattle.21

21 See supra note 6

22 Wells GA, et al., 2003. Studies of the transmissibility of the agent of bovine spongiform encephalopathy to hogs.
Journal of General Virology, 84, pp. 1021-1031.

23DEFRA, 2008. http://www.defra.gov.uk/foodfarm/farmanimal/diseases/atoz/bse/science-
research/cattle/transmis.htm#3. Accessed 23 March 2011.

24Cohen, J. T., et al., 2001. Evaluation of the Potential for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy in the United States:
Report to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Boston, MA, Harvard Center for Risk Analysis. Available at:
http://www.hcra.harvard.edu/BSE_analysis.html. accessed 23 March 2011.

In the case of swine, the risks of TSE being present in a swine population and to public health are
nonexistent. Research conducted in Great Britain demonstrated that swine are resistant to BSE
following oral exposure with large doses of infective material.22 In addition, no case of naturally
acquired TSE has ever been demonstrated in swine.23
The research is further strengthened by the
fact that even at the height of the BSE epidemic in cattle in the U.K., swine were not infected
despite being exposed to the same feedstuff risk ingredients as the cattle. In addition, the
Harvard Risk Assessment also indicated that there was no demonstrated transmission risk from
pork.24 According to U.S. Agricultural Research Service research, tissues from swine inoculated

with two types of TSEs were collected at 6 months (approximate time to reach market weight)
post-inoculation and were analyzed. There were no clinical signs suggestive of neurologic
disease or indication of prion accumulation.25 In summary, there is no evidence that hogs, or
consumption of pork, contributes to the public health or animal health risk of transmission of
TSEs.

25 USDA, ARS http://www.ars.usda.gov/research/projects/projects.htm?ACCN_NO=408808&
showpars=true&fy=2006

26 Sutherland, MA., et al., 2007. Health of non-ambulatory, non-injured hogs at processing. Livestock Science. 116.
p 237-245

27 FSIS’s disposition/food safety: Reportable and Foreign Animal Disease. http://www.fsis.usda.gov/PDF/PHVt-
Reportable_&_Foreign_Animal_Diseases.pdf

Additional data from Sutherland, et al.26 compares the health status of NANI hogs with the
health status of normal hogs by looking at a range of measures, including complete blood
chemistry, anatomy and pathology. In general, they concluded that there was no one single
determining health factor for the cause of fatigued hogs and that these hogs probably became
fatigued because of a combination of factors. The petition authors also cite swine brucellosis as
a safety concern to humane safety. Today, the U.S. commercial swine herd is free of brucellosis,
and any reported cases have originated from interaction with feral swine or transitional swine.
The U.S. swine brucellosis surveillance program is designed specifically for early detection and
proof of freedom from brucellosis in the commercial herd, and there are establish response
protocols for any detection in a commercial herd.

Conclusion

NPPC appreciates the opportunity to comment on the petition submitted by Farm Sanctuary to
the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service to amend the ante-mortem
inspection regulations to prohibit the slaughter of non-ambulatory swine. U.S. pork producers
would agree with Farm Sanctuary that animal welfare, human health and food safety are key
factors in ethical pork production as evident by the ethical principles that serve as the basis for
the pork industry’s We Care initiative. Banning the slaughter of non-ambulatory hogs, however,
would not only eliminate approximately 66 million pounds of safe and wholesome pork from the
food chain and result in an economic loss of millions of dollars to producers but would also go
against the available scientific evidence and provide no added benefit to animal welfare, human
health or food safety.

Sincerely,

Doug Wolf

President

National Pork Producers Council