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Lawsuit filed over increase in poultry slaughter line speeds

poultry plant

Several animal welfare groups and the Government Accountability Project have filed a lawsuit over the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2018 increase of poultry slaughter line speed limits.

In September 2018, the department announced that it would consider waivers filed by the poultry industry seeking to increase poultry slaughter line speeds to a maximum of 175 birds per minute. The law previously set the maximum poultry slaughter line speed at 140 birds per minute.

The plaintiffs argue that this 25% increase in speed will cause “many workers to suffer painful injuries,” lead to additional animal suffering and expose consumers to food contamination. The complaint also notes that poultry workers are already at a high risk of serious injuries and that the increased line speed will have a “direct correlation” to an increase in worker injuries.

Slaughterhouse workers suffer injuries more than twice the national average, according to 2017 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The lawsuit seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, including an order vacating the line speed increase decision and all waivers under that decision.

In October, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and others filed a complaint regarding the department’s September 2019 decision to remove previously maximum line speeds for hog slaughterhouses.