Most Americans oppose food from "downed" animals

March 30, 2001 Reuters

NEW YORK, March 30 (Reuters) - Although animals too sick to stand are commonly slaughtered and sold for human consumption in the United States, a majority of Americans oppose the practice, according to survey results released on Friday.

A Zogby America poll of 1,000 U.S. adults found 79 percent oppose the use of animals too sick to stand, known as "downed" animals, in the human food supply, said Farm Sanctuary, an animal protection group based in Watkins Glen, New York.

The poll, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percent, was conducted earlier this week for Farm Sanctuary.

The organization said Dr. Michael Greger, an expert in mad cow disease, has said that there was evidence downed cattle are suffering from a form of the disease and that excluding them from the human food supply was a "critical step" in protecting the public.

Earlier this month the USDA seized two flocks of Vermont dairy sheep in an effort to avert problems related to mad cow disease.

The sheep, imported to Vermont from Belgium and the Netherlands, had been under quarantine since 1998, when USDA officials learned they were likely exposed in Europe to feed contaminated with mad cow disease, also called bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE).

In July, animals from the flocks tested positive for transmissible spongiform encephalopathy, a class of brain-wasting disorders that includes BSE and the sheep ailment scrapie. A related human illness, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, has killed more than 80 people in Europe.

Farm Sanctuary, which considers downed animals to be diseased, filed petitions in 1998 with the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration seeking orders prohibiting the slaughter of these animals for food.

Although the USDA denied the petition, Farm Sanctuary said the agency has stopped buying meat from downed cattle for federal food programs, including the National School Lunch Program. It said the petition is pending before the FDA.

Farm Sanctuary said it was practically impossible to move downed animals humanely.

As a result, it said, such animals were commonly dragged with chains or pushed with tractors and forklifts, causing injuries ranging from bruises and abrasions to broken bones and torn ligaments.

It said downed animals typically suffered for hours or days without receiving food, water or veterinary care and in many cases were left to die of neglect.

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