A bipartisan group of 72 congressional representatives is calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to end the slaughter of "downer" calves -- animals that are too weak, from illness or injury, to stand on their own -- for food. Led by Representatives Grace Meng of New York and Carol Shea-Porter of New Hampshire, the congressional group condemned regulatory loopholes that allow for the slaughter of sick animals, calling the practice "inhumane" as well as a threat to food safety.
The Humane Society (HSUS), which conducted an investigation that led to one slaughter plant's shutdown, submitted a petition to the USDA in 2009 that requested an end to downer veal calf slaughter. As the congressional letter states, the department has not yet taken steps to eliminate the practice.
"USDA should not tolerate the abuse of any downed animals, including calves," Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO for the HSUS, said in a statement. "The HSUS has now exposed cruelty to downer calves in two investigations, and it's past time for the agency to take action to close this loophole. We commend the 72 members of Congress who join us in demanding USDA address this serious livestock handling issue."