October 17, 2021

Legislators Urge USDA to Ban Downer Calf Slaughter

Based on the Humane Society investigation last month into a calf slaughter plant in New Jersey, 72 members of Congress are asking the USDA to ban the slaughter of downer calves. They say that animals that are unable to stand  because they are too sick, injured, weak, or tired should not go into the food supply. A loophole in federal regulations allows this.

Dairy Bull CalfThe USDA granted a 2009 Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) petition last year requesting an end to the inhumane practice of slaughtering downer calves, but no more action has been taken. That video showed employees at the plant kicking and shocking non-ambulatory calves in their faces, necks, and torsos to force the baby animals to move off the trucks and into holding pens. These actions took place right in front of a USDA inspector, who didn’t stop the abuse or take any action.

The letter states, “more than four years have passed since HSUS requested this common-sense change, yet not even a proposed rule has been issued. Keeping disabled calves alive to suffer in pens is not only inhumane but also poses serious food safety threats.” Veal calves are slaughtered at 16 to 20 weeks of age. These downer calves lie in feces, which can lead to meat contaminated with pathogenic bacteria. Fecal matter usually contains E. coli and Salmonella.

Some in the beef industry say that closing this loophole would be “unduly burdensome”, but the figure the opponents cite, of  a loss of $800 per calf, is greatly inflated. The industry’s own calculations show a loss of $50 per animal.

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of HSUS said in a statement, “USDA should not tolerate the abuse of any downed animals, including calves. The HSUS has now exposed cruelty to downer calves in two investigations, and it’s past time for the agency to take action to close this loophole.”


  1. I am uncomfortable with the wording that ” no more action has been taken”. So you guys approached the subject with the USDA and then are sitting idle this long? Gees – you need to breathe down their throats to get action. Get on Twitter, start creating a campaign, you need help – you can not sit back and wait for change to happen, this is as guilty as the abusers. You must follow-up, be aggressive and not let down. If you were upset or mad enough you would have more urgency to get this done. Urgency is what makes things happen – not waiting around to see if change prevails!!!!

    • Linda Larsen says

      The USDA has taken no more action on this matter, not the groups who are fighting to ban downer calf slaughter. Groups such as Center for Food Safety and the Humane Society are working constantly on these issues.

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