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USDA to improve humane handling of veal calves

FSIS proposal would require veal calves brought to slaughter that cannot rise and walk be promptly and humanely euthanized.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety & Inspection Service (FSIS) has announced proposed changes to improve both humane handling and food safety inspections at facilities that produce veal meat.

The proposal would require that veal calves that are brought to slaughter but cannot rise and walk be promptly and humanely euthanized and prohibited from entering the food supply. Currently, FSIS allows veal calves that are unable to rise from a recumbent position to be set aside and warmed or rested and presented for slaughter if they regain the ability to walk. FSIS said it has found that this practice may contribute to the inhumane treatment of the veal calves.

This proposed rule would improve compliance with the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act by encouraging improved treatment of veal calves, as well as improve inspection efficiency by allowing FSIS inspection program personnel to devote more time to activities related to food safety.

Since 2004, FSIS has prohibited the slaughter of non-ambulatory cattle for human food because the inability to rise may be a symptom of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). While BSE is not a serious risk in cattle younger than 30 months of age, the regulations apply to all cattle, including veal calves. Currently, unlike adult cattle, veal calves that regain the ability to walk after being warmed or rested may enter the food supply. In 2013, FSIS granted a petition by the Humane Society of the United States asking the agency to remove this provision. The proposed regulation would remove this provision, requiring that non-ambulatory calves be promptly and humanely euthanized, in keeping with requirements for adult cattle.

The proposed rule can be accessed at: http://1.usa.gov/1F9ZdDU. FSIS will accept comments for 60 days from the publication date. No actual changes will occur until after FSIS considers received comments regarding proposed changes and then issues a final rule. Comments may be submitted via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov or by mail addressed to: Docket Clerk, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service, Patriots Plaza 3, 1400 Independence Avenue SW, Mailstop 3782, Room 8-163A, Washington, D.C. 20250-3700.

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