[Federal Register: September 9, 2004 (Volume 69, Number 174)]
[Notices]               
[Page 54625-54627]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr09se04-35]                         

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DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE

Food Safety and Inspection Service

[Docket No. 04-013N]

 
Humane Handling and Slaughter Requirements and the Merits of a 
Systematic Approach To Meet Such Requirements

AGENCY: Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA.

ACTION: Notice.

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SUMMARY: All livestock establishments are required to meet requirements 
in the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA), Federal Meat Inspection 
Act (FMIA) and implementing regulations. FSIS believes a systematic 
approach is beneficial in meeting these requirements and through this 
notice is encouraging livestock slaughter establishments to use a 
systematic approach to humane handling and slaughter to best ensure 
that they meet the requirements of the HMSA, FMIA, and implementing 
regulations. With a systematic approach, establishments focus on 
treating livestock in such a manner as to minimize excitement, 
discomfort, and accidental injury the entire time they hold livestock 
in connection with slaughter.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Lynn Dickey, Ph.D., Director, 
Regulations and Petitions Policy Staff, Office of Policy, Program and 
Employee Development, Food Safety and Inspection Service, Cotton Annex 
Building, 300 12th Street, SW., Room 112, Washington, DC 20250-3700; 
(202) 720-5627.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: 

The HMSA, the FMIA, and FSIS Regulations on Humane Handling and 
Slaughter of Livestock

    The HMSA of 1978 (7 U.S.C. 1901 et seq.) requires that humane 
methods be used for handling and slaughtering livestock. The HMSA 
provides that two methods of slaughter and handling are humane. Under 
the first humane method, all livestock are rendered insensible to pain 
by a single blow or gunshot or an electrical, chemical, or other means 
that is rapid and effective, before being shackled, hoisted, thrown, 
cast, or cut. Under the second humane method, slaughtering is in 
accordance with the ritual requirements of the Jewish faith or of any 
other religious faith that prescribes a method of slaughter whereby the 
animal suffers loss of consciousness by anemia of the brain caused by 
the simultaneous and instantaneous severance of the carotid arteries 
with a sharp instrument.
    In the HMSA, Congress found ``that the use of humane methods in the 
slaughter of livestock prevents needless suffering; results in safer 
and better working conditions for persons engaged in the slaughtering 
industry; brings about improvement of products and economies in 
slaughtering operations; and produces other benefits for producers, 
processors, and consumers which tend to expedite an orderly flow of 
livestock and livestock products in interstate and foreign commerce.''
    The HMSA is referenced in the FMIA (21 U.S.C. 603) and is 
implemented by FSIS humane handling and slaughter regulations found at 
9 CFR part 313. The FMIA provides that, for the purposes of preventing 
inhumane slaughter of livestock, the Secretary of Agriculture will 
assign inspectors to examine and inspect the methods by which livestock 
are slaughtered and handled in connection with slaughter in 
slaughtering establishments subject to inspection (21 U.S.C. 603(b)). 
Therefore, establishments must meet the humane handling and slaughter 
requirements in the regulations the entire time they hold livestock in 
connection with slaughter.

The Reason FSIS is Issuing This Notice at This Time

    FSIS is issuing this notice because there has been considerable 
congressional and public interest about the humane treatment of 
animals, and because the number of humane handling noncompliance 
incidents documented by FSIS in establishments has increased over the 
last three years.
    In recent years, Congress has taken various actions to strengthen 
USDA's resources and to ensure that the agency enforces the humane 
handling and slaughter provisions of the HMSA and the FMIA. In 2001, 
Congress provided funds for the agency to enhance verification and 
enforcement of humane slaughter practices. In response, FSIS created 
the position of District Veterinary Medical Specialist (DVMS) in each 
of the FSIS district offices. The DVMSs are the primary contacts for 
all humane handling and slaughter issues, and they are the liaisons 
between the district offices and headquarters. They are responsible for 
on-site coordination of nationally prescribed humane slaughter 
procedures and verification of

[[Page 54626]]

humane handling activities, as well as for disseminating directives, 
notices, and other information related to the HMSA.
    In a recent congressional conference report for fiscal year 2003 
appropriations (House Conference Report. No. 108-10 (2003)), the 
conferees directed the United States Government Accountability Office 
(GAO) to review and report to the appropriations committees on the 
scope and frequency of humane slaughter violations and to provide 
recommendations on the extent to which additional resources for 
inspection personnel, training, and other agency functions are needed 
to properly regulate slaughter facilities.
    In response to this congressional request, GAO analyzed the scope 
and frequency of humane handling and slaughter noncompliance incidents 
documented by FSIS inspection program personnel and found that the 
number of documented records for noncompliance incidents increased from 
January 2001 through March 2003. Similarly, the number of noncompliance 
records documenting relatively minor violations increased as well. FSIS 
attributed the increase in part to the enhanced awareness of humane 
handling and noncompliance documentation requirements on the part of 
the FSIS inspection program personnel (based in part on the efforts of 
the DVMSs).
    In addition to this congressional interest, FSIS has received over 
20,000 letters from the public (individuals, consumer organizations, 
and animal welfare organizations) over the last few years expressing 
concerns regarding the humane treatment of livestock. Public interest 
regarding the humane treatment of livestock continues to be high.
    FSIS has sought to demonstrate its commitment to humane handling 
and slaughter by taking a number of actions in addition to creating the 
position of DVMS. The Agency issued FSIS Notice 50-02, ISP Procedure 
Code for Humane Slaughter in November 2002. This Notice directs FSIS 
veterinarians and FSIS inspection program personnel to document 
violations of humane handling requirements on a Noncompliance Record 
(NR) using a procedure code that was created solely to document 
violations of humane handling and slaughter requirements. Use of this 
code is allowing the Agency to more accurately document, track, and 
address violations of the HMSA.
    In November of 2003, the Agency issued a directive to all FSIS 
inspection program personnel that provides specific, detailed 
information about requirements of the HMSA to ensure that verification 
and enforcement are clearly and uniformly understood. In June 2004, 
FSIS issued a FSIS Notice to provide FSIS inspection program personnel 
with clarification regarding what information they are to record in 
Humane-handling Activities Tracking (HAT) under the Electronic Animal 
Disposition Report System (eADRS), and to remind them about the 
information that they are to include on NRs issued for humane handling 
noncompliances.

A Systematic Approach to Humane Handling and Slaughter

    Establishments need to implement and maintain a systematic approach 
to humane handling and slaughter to best assure compliance with the 
HMSA, FMIA and implementing regulations. To develop and maintain a 
systematic approach to meet the humane handling and slaughter 
requirements, establishments should:
    (1) Conduct an initial assessment of where and under what 
circumstances livestock may experience excitement, discomfort, or 
accidental injury while being handled in connection with slaughter and, 
except for establishments conducting ritual slaughter, where and under 
what circumstances stunning problems may occur;
    (2) Design facilities and implement practices that will minimize 
excitement, discomfort, and accidental injury to livestock;
    (3) Evaluate periodically their handling methods to ensure they 
minimize excitement, discomfort, or accidental injury and, except for 
establishments conducting ritual slaughter, evaluate periodically their 
stunning methods to ensure that all livestock are rendered insensible 
to pain by a single blow; and
    (4) Improve handling practices and modify facilities when necessary 
to minimize excitement, discomfort, and accidental injury to livestock.
    In the first step of a systematic approach, establishments should 
conduct an assessment of where handling and stunning problems may 
occur. Establishments should consider such factors as (1) whether the 
movement of livestock is done with a minimum of excitement and 
discomfort to the animal and at a suitable pace, (2) whether the 
particular livestock's genetics, instincts, and behavior are taken into 
account in the handling of livestock in the establishment, (3) whether 
electric prods and other implements are used as little as possible to 
move animals within the establishment, (4) whether animals have access 
to water, (5) whether there is sufficient room in the holding pens for 
animals that are held overnight, (6) whether training is provided for 
establishment personnel in the appropriate and proper use of restraints 
and prods, and (7) whether potential weather and climatic conditions of 
the locale, especially for disabled livestock in the establishment, 
will lead to the inhumane treatment of animals.
    Establishments should also assess the stunning method used for its 
effectiveness in rendering animals immediately unconscious and to 
ensure that animals are being properly stunned before being 
slaughtered. Establishments should also assess the training for 
establishment personnel in the appropriate use of stunning and 
slaughtering equipment.
    In the second step of a systematic approach, establishments should 
determine if they are in compliance with the regulatory requirements by 
analyzing whether (1) the pens, driveways, and ramps are designed and 
maintained to prevent injury or pain to the animals,(2) the pens are 
free of loose boards or openings, so that the head, feet or legs of an 
animal will not be injured, (3) the floors of pens, ramps, and 
driveways are constructed so that an animal is not likely to fall 
(e.g., using cleated or waffled floors or sand on the floors), and (4) 
driveways are designed so that sharp turns or sudden reversals of 
direction are minimized, so that they are not likely to cause injury to 
the animals.
    In the third step of a systematic approach, establishments should 
evaluate periodically their handling methods to ensure that their 
employees are in fact minimizing excitement, discomfort, or accidental 
injury to livestock. Establishments should also periodically evaluate 
their stunning methods to ensure that they are working effectively to 
render all animals insensible to pain by a single blow.
    If an establishment finds evidence of a problem during the first 
three steps of the evaluation process, it should follow step 4 of the 
systematic approach and improve its handling practices or modify its 
facilities to minimize the excitement, discomfort, or accidental injury 
to livestock.
    (Some of the factors recommended above are based on information 
from Dr. Temple Grandin--see the references at the end of this Notice).
    When conducting the four recommended steps outlined above, 
establishments should consider all factors relevant to humane handling 
and slaughter requirements for the entire

[[Page 54627]]

time that livestock is held in connection with slaughter.
    Through a systematic approach, establishments that do not conduct 
ritual slaughter will best ensure that their stunning methods render 
all livestock insensible to pain by a single blow. In addition, FSIS is 
recommending the systematic approach discussed above because it ensures 
that establishments take into account any new conditions in the 
establishment that warrant changes to facilities or existing handling 
or slaughter procedures.
    FSIS has included a list of references that may assist 
establishments in considering means of assessing or improving their 
handling and slaughter procedures.

Additional Public Notification

    Public awareness of all segments of rulemaking and policy 
development is important. Consequently, in an effort to ensure that the 
public and in particular minorities, women, and persons with 
disabilities, are aware of this notice, FSIS will announce it on-line 
through the FSIS web page located at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://www.fsis.usda.gov.

    FSIS also will make copies of this Federal Register publication 
available through the FSIS Constituent Update, which is used to provide 
information regarding FSIS policies, procedures, regulations, Federal 
Register notices, FSIS public meetings, recalls, and other types of 
information that could affect or would be of interest to our 
constituents and stakeholders. The update is communicated via Listserv, 
a free e-mail subscription service consisting of industry, trade, and 
farm groups, consumer interest groups, allied health professionals, 
scientific professionals, and other individuals who have requested to 
be included. The update also is available on the FSIS web page. Through 
Listserv and the web page, FSIS is able to provide information to a 
much broader, more diverse audience.

References

    The following sources are available for review in the FSIS 
Docket Room, Cotton Annex, 300 12th Street, SW., Room 102, 
Washington, DC 20250 between 8:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through 
Friday.
    Baker, L. (2004). Humane slaughter systems. Unpublished research 
paper, Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine, 
Blacksburg, Virginia.
    D'Souza, D.N., Warner, R.D., Dunshea, F.R. & Leury, B.J. (1998). 
Effect of on-farm and pre-slaughter handling of pigs on meat 
quality. Australian Journal of Agricultural Research, 49, 1021-1025.
    Grandin, T. (2003). AMI Meat Institute Foundation: Good 
management practices for animal handling and stunning at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://www.grandin.com/ami.audit.guidelines.html
.

    Grandin, T. (1996). Animal welfare in slaughter plants. Research 
paper presented at the 29th Annual Conference of American 
Association of Bovine Practitioners. Proceedings, pages 22-26.
    Grandin, Temple Web Page. Available at: http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://www.grandin.com.


    Done at Washington, DC on September 3, 2004.
Barbara J. Masters,
Acting Administrator.
[FR Doc. 04-20431 Filed 9-8-04; 8:45 am]