The USDA will implement a series of interim actions to verify and analyse humane handling activities in all federally inspected establishments, and will focus efforts on plants that handle animals most prone to stress.
The agency will focus surveillance and inspection activities at establishments where older or potentially distressed animals are slaughtered. Other new actions to be implemented include:
– Increasing the amount of time allocated per shift by inspection programme personnel to verify humane handling activities and to verify humane handling in the ante-mortem areas
– Observing animal handling activities outside the approved hours of operation from vantage points within and adjacent to the official premises
– Issuing instructions to FSIS inspectors to reinforce the work methods for conducting humane handling verification activities at all levels and to ensure the greatest use of the Humane Activities Tracking System (HATS) programme.
Inspection activities will be prioritised based on the category of livestock handled at the facility, humane handling data, observations made at the facility during regular inspection and a plant’s operating schedule.
Humane Activities Tracking System (HATS)
In addition, the HATS programme, implemented in 2004, will be reviewed. HATS provides FSIS with an accounting of the time spent by inspectors performing specific tasks and the results of that inspection related to humane handling and slaughter under the requirements of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act.
There are nine specific HATS humane handling categories: – Adequate measures for inclement weather – Truck unloading – Water availability (and feed, if applicable) – Handling during ante-mortem inspection – Handling of suspect and disabled livestock – Electric prod/alternative object use – Observations of slips and falls – Stunning effectiveness – Checking for conscious animals on the rail prior to processing.
Upon completion of this current investigation, the USDA will determine whether or not it needs to make any inspection policy changes.