WASHINGTON – The US Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service will introduce new guidance on humane handling procedures. FSIS developed the Compliance Guide for a Systematic Approach to the Humane Handling of Livestock, after a report from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) criticized the agency's inspection and enforcement activities in US hog processing plants.

The agency also has changed its training programs for inspectors to include more situation-based animal-handling scenarios that inspectors may encounter throughout the production process — from unloading, to stunning, to post stunning, FSIS said. The agency implemented the new training program in 2010.

“We have taken significant measures over the last few years to strengthen our ability to enforce humane handling laws at livestock slaughter facilities nationwide,” said FSIS Administrator Al Almanza. “The guidance is one example of our commitment to the humane treatment of animals. We continue to implement improvements so that we have the best system possible.”

An OIG report released in May found that FSIS failed to deter repeat offenders of the Federal Meat Inspection Act. Additionally, the OIG also found that the swine Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP)-based Inspection Models Project (HIMP) pilot program lacked sufficient oversight, and that that three of the 10 plants cited with the most Noncompliance Records in fiscal years 2008-2001 were HIMP plants.

To support its enforcement of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, FSIS created a Humane Handling Enforcement Coordinator position that will oversee the agency's daily enforcement and implementation activities. A department level ombudsman will provide a neutral forum for field personnel and other stakeholders to report concerns about humane handling.