The US Department of Agriculture has announced an overhaul of the rules governing pig slaughterhouses, including the removal mandatory production line speed limits and a transfer of some of the responsibility for safety inspections from federal inspectors to production line workers.
The new rules allow swine-slaughter establishments to choose whether they want to operate under the new system or continue to be subject to traditional inspections.
The USDA said that techniques now exist to enable safety and quality standards to be maintained at speeds that were previously prohibited and that the elimination of speed limits would enable further refinement of these techniques. It also said that reducing the need for federal inspectors would save taxpayer money and help the agency to streamline its activities.
However, the moves drew extensive criticism from workers’ rights groups, consumer rights groups, activists and journalists (including the New York Times editorial board), who alleged that high speed production lines endanger workers, increase animal suffering and make it more difficult to ensure that diseased or defective livestock does not pass through the production process.71