Comments sought on livestock slaughter petitions

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Federal regulators are considering petitions to end the slaughter of temporarily immobile veal calves and ban the slaughter of other nonambulatory livestock.

The Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service is accepting comments through April 8 on two petitions for the agency to issue new rules on disabled livestock.

A November 2009 petition from the Humane Society of the United States seeks to alter federal requirements for cattle that arrive at a slaughter facility unable to stand and walk. The USDA requires euthanasia of nearly all such cattle and disposal of the carcasses outside the food chain, with exceptions for veal calves that are immobile potentially because they are exhausted or cold. The HSUS petition seeks an end to the practice of setting apart such veal calves for treatment and then slaughtering them if they walk and have been assessed as free from disease.

The requirement to euthanize nonambulatory cattle was implemented because of the risk of bovine spongiform encephalopathy to humans, while other species of disabled animals are inspected by FSIS veterinarians prior to a decision whether those animals proceed to slaughter, the Feb. 7 Federal Register notice states. The most recent version of the requirement also was a response to inhumane handling of nonambulatory cattle, the notice states.

A March 2010 petition from Farm Sanctuary seeks application of mandatory condemnation to all nonambulatory livestock.

The Federal Register notice states that FSIS tentatively granted the HSUS petition, and the agency is considering measures to ensure other disabled livestock are humanely handled.

To provide comments, go to and search for FSIS-2010-0041.