Non-Profit Farm Sanctuary Files Lawsuit Against USDA To Prohibit Slaughter of 'Downed' Animals for Human Consumption;
Anthrax, Mad Cow and E. Coli are Among Diseases Downed Cattle Could Spread to Humans

November 14, 2001 PR Newswire
Farm Sanctuary and Michael Baur have filed a lawsuit against the USDA to prohibit "downed" animals from being marketed for food in the United States, it was announced today by attorney Sheldon Eisenberg, a partner at Bryan Cave, LLP. "Downed animal" is an industry term describing non-ambulatory livestock, which collapse usually for unknown reasons, and are too sick to stand back up.

In addition to inhumane and cruel treatment of these animals by the animal food industry, downed livestock may pose a grave threat to human health when circulated into the food supply. Some of the same illnesses with which these animals are afflicted could present health dangers to humans who consume the meat of these animals. With the current agricultural bioterrorism threat, such diseases as Anthrax could be passed from animals to humans when meat from infected animals is not thoroughly cooked before consumption. Downed animals are not routinely tested for bacterial diseases such as Anthrax prior to slaughter, yet meat from downed animals has a greatly increased risk for bacterial contamination. There is also evidence that some downed animals in the U.S. may be afflicted with a variant of Mad Cow Disease (Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy).

Such fast food giants as McDonald's, Burger King and Wendy's have banned the use of meat from downed animals in their products, and even the USDA announced in June 2000 that it would no longer purchase ground beef products containing meat from downed animals for federal food programs.

Yet, in response to petitions from Farm Sanctuary, the USDA openly admits allowing diseased meat to be sold for human consumption. This ignores the current Federal Food Drug and Cosmetics Act (FFDCA) prohibiting the introduction of "adulterated" food, i.e. any food that "is in whole or in part, the product of a diseased animal," into interstate commerce. The USDA's own regulations enacted under the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) define a "diseased" animal as one that cannot walk normally or stand. Farm Sanctuary argues that the USDA should comply with FFDCA and FMIA regulations, hence prohibiting the processing of downed animals into meat products.

Farm Sanctuary co-founder and director Gene Bauston states, "The human health risks associated with the consumption of 'downed' animals could be devastating, but the inhumane treatment of these animals is also inexcusable. Animals who are too sick to stand commonly lay for hours or days without food, water, or veterinary care, and they often die of neglect. Downed animals that survive are dragged onto trucks with chains or pushed with tractors and forklifts to slaughter. This kind of cruelty has no place in a civilized country."

Although downed cattle are subject to veterinary inspection prior to slaughter per USDA guidelines, testimony provides that inspections are insufficient at best. Downed cattle are typically passed for slaughter regardless of disease because of the overwhelming inspection demands and pressure to comply with the status quo.

In the interest of public health, this lawsuit is an effort to prohibit downed animals from being slaughtered for human consumption and to raise public awareness about this disturbing practice. Farm Sanctuary is a national, non-profit animal protection organization with over 90,000 members dedicated to the rescue and protection of abused farm animals. Michael Baur, a Professor at Fordham University and consumer of meat, is a concerned citizen.

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