Humane Handling Ombudsman
It is the mission of the Humane Handling Ombudsman to:
- Act as an independent, confidential and neutral resource for FSIS employees and stakeholders to bring forward complaints and concerns related to federal humane handling laws and regulations.
- Collaborate with all concerned parties by facilitating and effectuating resolutions which are fair and equitable.
- Identify individual and systemic improvements to address humane handling problems that may threaten the effectiveness of the Agency's food safety mission and to assist in the implementation of those improvements along with ways to minimize recurrence.
The creation of the Humane Handling Ombudsman position was one of several measures taken by USDA to improve FSIS verification and enforcement of federal humane handling laws and regulations. FSIS employees, agency stakeholders, and the general public can report humane handling concerns or complaints when the standard reporting mechanisms do not adequately address or resolve outstanding issues.
The Humane Handling Ombudsman activities and responsibilities are carried out within the context of three guiding principles: Independence, Confidentiality, and Neutrality.
- Independence - The Humane Handling Ombudsman position was established at the Department level, reporting to the Office of Food Safety.
- Confidentiality - Complainant's identities are kept confidential except in instances where consent is given to disclose the identity or in situations of imminent threat to public or personal safety.
- Neutrality - The Humane Handling Ombudsman serves not as an advocate for employees or stakeholders, or for the agency, but rather as an advocate for fairness and equitable resolution.
If you have a humane handling related comment or concern or wish to file a complaint, please contact FSIS via email or U.S. mail using the information below.
United States Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service
Attn: Humane Handling
Jamie Whitten Building, Room 331-E
1400 Independence Avenue, S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20250
Q. What is the Humane Handling Ombudsman's area of responsibility?
The Humane Handling Ombudsman is responsible for receiving and addressing concerns or complaints related to FSIS verification and enforcement of Federal humane handling and slaughter statutes and regulations.
Q. Would the Humane Handling Ombudsman also receive and address concerns or complaints related to Good Commercial Practices in poultry slaughter?
Yes. Although the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act only covers livestock, FSIS also verifies that poultry are handled and slaughtered humanely in accordance with Good Commercial Practices.
Q. Would the Humane Handling Ombudsman receive and address concerns or complaints regarding firms operating under custom exemption?
Yes. Because FSIS carries out enforcement activities at custom exempt facilities, the occurrence of inhumane handling at a custom exempt facility could be brought to the attention of the Humane Handling Ombudsman.
Q. At what point can a concern or compliant be brought to the attention of the Humane Handling Ombudsman?
The Humane Handling Ombudsman may be contacted at anytime. There are no prerequisites that define the circumstances as to when the Ombudsman can or should be contacted. Ideally, steps towards resolution have been attempted before the Ombudsman is contacted. However, this is a general consideration and not an absolute. If no prior attempts at resolution have been made, the Ombudsman will work with the complaint in developing options for attempting to resolve the issue themselves. There may be situations where prior attempts at resolution are either impractical or impossible, so this determination is made on a case-by-case basis.
Q. How does the Humane Handling Ombudsman differ from the existing channels which may hear concerns and address complaints regarding humane handling?
The position of the Humane Handling Ombudsman was established to serve as an additional resource available to FSIS employees, industry stakeholders and the general public and was created specifically for hearing concerns and addressing complaints related to humane handling. The activities and responsibilities of the Humane Handling Ombudsman are carried out within the context of three guiding principles: Independence, Confidentiality, and Neutrality. In addition, the Humane Handling Ombudsman can issue both formal and informal recommendations which may identify individual and systemic improvements. It is the adherence to these three guiding principles along with the ability to issue recommendations which differentiates the Humane Handling Ombudsman from the existing channels of redress.