WASHINGTON- Various activist groups recently filed a lawsuit against the US Dept. of Agriculture for allowing poultry plants to increase line speeds. 

The lawsuit was filed by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Animal Outlook, Mercy for Animals, Government Accountability Project and Marin Humane as plaintiffs in the case. The group filed the suit in US District Court of Northern District of California, San Francisco Division on Feb. 25.

The plaintiffs allege that the federal agency created the line speed changes without providing time for legal notice and time for public comment. HSUS also claimed that 37 poultry plants received waivers to operate at speeds above 140 chickens per minute. 

In 2018, The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) implemented a waiver system to permit chicken processors participating in the New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS) to operate line speeds exceeding 175 birds per minute.

Kitty Block, president and CEO of HSUS, wrote in a blog post that slaughtering animals at this rate is inhumane and makes working conditions more dangerous for workers. The National Chicken Council (NCC) responded in a statement that the plaintiffs’ accusations can be refuted easily.

“This is nothing more than the latest attempt by radical, vegan advocacy groups to try to use the legal system to impose their agenda,” said Tom Super, NCC’s senior vice president of communications. “Their claims lack any merit and have been consistently rejected by the courts.”

Super explained that the US poultry industry has a long history of producing safe chicken and protecting workers at high line speeds.

Salmonella rates on chicken are at all-time lows, as are key safety metrics for chicken processing employees,” Super said. “More than two decades of data, spanning back to the Clinton administration, confirms the safety records of plants operating at higher line speeds.”

Super also said there has been ample opportunity to provide public comment on FSIS’s line speed waiver program. He said the agency published detailed criteria for the waivers in the Federal Register and through the FSIS Constituent Update