The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) condemned the program as detrimental to the welfare of pigs. “While the food safety effects of the proposed change have been publicly debated for some time, the impact of HIMP on the pigs themselves has received far less attention,” the organizations said in a joint statement. “The ASPCA and AWI oppose HIMP due to the negative impacts of higher slaughter speeds on animal welfare.”
The groups said HIMP jeopardizes pig welfare in three ways:
- Under the demands of the proposed rule, plant workers may be pressured to move animals at a faster rate, from the time the pigs arrive at the slaughterhouse to the time they are slaughtered.
- The proposed rule would shorten the length of the stun used to render pigs insensible to pain before slaughter.
- The proposed rule would prevent plant workers and government inspectors from being able to identify pigs who have not been adequately stunned and are still conscious on the processing line.
The program already is available for poultry processors. Employees at slaughter plants would be responsible for checking carcasses for visual defects and sorting out those that are unlikely to pass federal inspection. A federal inspector would be stationed at the end of the line to conduct a final visual inspection.
Meanwhile, other USDA personnel work off the line to ensure that the plant is meeting pathogen reduction targets and its HACCP program.
HIMP allows processors to run their evisceration lines at higher speeds. The animal welfare groups said under this model, line speeds in pork plants would rise to 1,300 pigs slaughtered per hour from 1,000. But USDA has said HIMP will reduce the risk of foodborne illness by allowing FSIS personnel to focus on food safety testing and other activities related to foodborne illness prevention.