Kicking a Sick Pig When She’s Down

Posted by Liz Hallinan, ALDF Litigation Fellow on June 18, 2014


On June 3, ALDF and a coalition of animal advocacy groups submitted a petition to the USDA requesting that so-called “downer” pigs—who are too sick, weak, or injured to walk to their slaughter—be removed from the human food supply.

Slaughtering downer animals for food has disastrous animal welfare consequences. Under the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, which aims to prevent needless suffering of animals, the USDA is obligated by Congressional mandate to ensure that animals raised for food are slaughtered humanely. Allowing products from downer animals to be sold after slaughter discourages compliance with this law. When animals are too weak to stand but can still be sold for food, slaughterhouse workers have an incentive to force those animals to stand, and to use abusive tactics to do so.

Undercover investigations at slaughter facilities have documented workers prodding, kicking, and even ramming weak animals with forklifts to force them to their feet. Additionally, workers can aggressively handle and injure even healthy animals, since wounded animals can be sold for profit. As a result, animal welfare expert Temple Grandin has recognized that “maintaining an adequate level of animal welfare at the plant level is impossible if the pigs are too weak to walk through the yards.”

From a food safety perspective, the inclusion of these animals in the food supply poses a risk to public health. Unhealthy animals sold for food are more likely to make consumers sick. For example, the USDA banned downer cows in 2009, presumably in part due to evidence that downer cows are more likely to be infected with “mad cow disease” that can be transmitted to humans who eat infected beef.

If producers are not financially rewarded for weak and injured animals, healthy animals are more likely to be treated humanely—sick animals will be humanely euthanized, not turned into food. The USDA has already recognized this very fact when they recently granted a petition to prohibit the slaughter of downer veal calves, stating that such a ban would “better ensure humane handling” at slaughterhouses.

The USDA has an abysmal record of enforcing the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, not least because there are too few inspectors for the enormous task of overseeing the slaughter of more than nine billion animals every year. Granting this petition would allow USDA to focus on the humane treatment of healthy animals, as well as ensure a better food supply for consumers.

Click here to take action by asking the USDA to act on the coalition’s petition, 14-02.

For more information, please see ALDF’s Farmed Animals and the Law brochure.

14 thoughts on “Kicking a Sick Pig When She’s Down

  1. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you, ALDF! Is there anywhere online where we can view the petition?

    1. cheryl blankenship says:


  2. Saeed rami says:

    Stop Animal cruelty.

  3. Linda Weiland says:

    This makes me sick. Greed is responsible for 99% of the ills of this world. Where’s the petition?

  4. Klara Larsen says:

    Cruelty to animals are not OK. It’s sick.

  5. Tracy Light says:

    Idiots who can treat abuse/torture animals are obviously sadists, and cowards. Where is the petition to sign??

  6. Donna Blake says:

    I am appalled by the inhumane, brutal treatment dealt
    out to these weak, unwell pigs. The eating of meat is abhorrent to me as death for these animals always involves suffering,, some, like these pigs, suffer more then others.The workers that torture these animals in the slaughtering process should be charged with animal cruelty and murder. Meat is murder.

  7. Brigitte St Jean says:

    No animals needs cruelty. No need to hit or torture an animals. PLease stop this foolishness.

  8. sandra frost says:

    Please make these companies/people known to the world…Its not right and never ever ever will be…Factory farming needs to stop. If everyone knew half the world wold stop eating meat

  9. cathy norris says:

    ANY exploitation of animals is WRONG. Raising sentient beings for food is WRONG. Going Vegan is the only moral choice anything else funds the torture and misery of vulnerable sentient beings who are at our mercy.

  10. Courtney Jacobs says:


  11. Darlene says:

    where’s the damn petition? There’s so many people want to sign it, where is it?sorry, want to help but feel like I can’t. Frustrated.

  12. Nancy Mehan says:

    I’ll sign the petition if I can find it!

  13. Lori Hessinger Benefiel says:

    Can even move ,,then they lock them if they do get out ,kick. Beat barbaric,

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