The USDA announced today a proposed rule that would ban the slaughter of downer cattle--cattle that are too weak or sick to stand.
Thought unfit cattle were already banned from the food supply? Not exactly.
The rules state that while downer cattle must be kept out of the food supply, an exception exists that allows a government veterinarian to approve for slaughter an animal that passed an initial inspection, but then goes down before reaching the "knock box," according to a Washington Post article, so long as a second inspection finds that animal to have an acute injury rather than an illness.
You'll recall a few months ago the nation witnessed the largest beef recall in its history that was the result of the Humane Society's secret videotapes of workers at a California meat plant prodding and fork-lifting downer cattle into the slaughterhouse.
The Humane Society immediately called on the USDA to amend its rules to prevent crippled cattle from entering the food supply, and the USDA suggested in the spring it was interested in doing so to boost consumer confidence.
Today's announcement brings the rule a step closer. In a press release, Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer said: "To maintain consumer confidence in the food supply, eliminate further misunderstanding of the rule and, ultimately, to make a positive impact on the humane handling of cattle, I believe it is sound policy to simplify this matter by initiating a complete ban on the slaughter of downer cattle."
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