The American Meat Institute (AMI) filed comments Friday with USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) pointing out the strong economic incentives that exist for humane livestock handling and urging FSIS to reject two petitions which suggest that no such incentives exist.

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) petition requests immediate euthanization of veal calves that cannot walk on arrival at federally inspected slaughter plants and rejects the common practice of warming calves to permit them to rest and become ambulatory. The Farm Sanctuary petition seeks immediate euthanization of any livestock at packing plants that are non-ambulatory for any reason.

Both petitioners argue when livestock are non-mobile, an incentive exists for plant personnel to abuse the animals and force them to walk. AMI counters there are strong incentives to ensure an animal’s welfare, both in terms of the quality benefits, and costs associated with lost production time when regulatory actions are taken in response to inhumane treatment of livestock.

AMI further notes that granting the Farm Sanctuary petition could harm disease surveillance and cause confusion if a non-ambulatory pig is simply tired and becomes ambulatory before a veterinarian arrives to check it.

“Absent an FSIS dictate that all animals be held for ante-mortem inspection, many non-ambulatory animals would be euthanized and disposed of before being examined for disease. Ironically, many animals, especially hogs, in the time it can take for the federal veterinarian to arrive to conduct such an inspection, likely would become ambulatory, thereby creating a quandry regarding the status of such animals when subject to ante-mortem inspection,” AMI wrote. “That is, would livestock in such circumstances still be subject to condemnation even if found not to be diseased? If so, why and if not, why should they be treated differently from animals that are non-ambulatory, are subjected to inspection, and also found to be disease free?”

AMI concluded that granting the petitions would result in needless waste with no identifiable benefit.

“If a non-ambulatory pig or veal calf could become ambulatory with rest or warming, if they can be handled in a way to minimize discomfort, if economic incentives exist to promote good care, and if these animals can pass ante-mortem inspection, is it really appropriate, ethically, morally and otherwise, to turn livestock that have the potential to nourish people into little more than a waste disposal problem?”