This testimony discusses our work on the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) actions to enforce the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act of 1978 (HMSA), as amended, which prohibits the inhumane treatment of livestock in slaughter plants and generally requires that animals be rendered insensible--that is, unable to feel pain--before being slaughtered. USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is responsible for enforcing HMSA. Concerns about the humane handling and slaughter of livestock have increased in recent years, particularly after possible HMSA violations were revealed at a slaughter plant in California in 2008 and one in Vermont in 2009. This statement summarizes our report being released today that (1) evaluates USDA's efforts to enforce HMSA, (2) identifies the extent to which FSIS tracks recent trends in FSIS inspection resources for enforcing HMSA, and (3) evaluates FSIS's efforts to develop a strategy to guide HMSA enforcement. To perform this work we, among other things, conducted a survey of inspectors-in-charge--those responsible for reporting on humane handling enforcement in the plants--from a random sample of inspectors-in-charge at 257 livestock slaughter plants from May 2009 through July 2009. Our sample allowed us to make estimates about the observations and opinions of all inspectors-in-charge at U.S. slaughter plants. We obtained responses from 235 inspectors-in-charge, for an overall survey response rate of 93 percent. We also examined a sample of FSIS noncompliance reports, suspension data, and district veterinary medical specialist reports in all 15 of FSIS's district offices for fiscal years 2005 through 2009.
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