The USDA has begun to weigh in on the Rubashkin Shechita-gate scandal.
It has posted a training document that tells inspectors to shut down plants doing shechita like Rubashkin was doing on the PETA video.
It is becoming clear that the OU's mandated changes came not just from public pressure, but from government enforcement.
The document reads as follows:
You are the Public Health Veterinarian (PHV), assigned to a "mini-circuit". Recently, you have completed discussions, with several establishment owners/managers, on F.R. Notice, Volume 69, Pages 54625 - 54627 (September 9, 2004), concerning the merits of using a systematic approach to meet the humane handling and slaughter requirements. Today, you are visiting one of those establishments; this establishment performs both traditional and ritual slaughter on steers and heifers.
While making a plant tour, you walk through the kill floor into the stun/stick area, where you routinely perform verification activities, to observe the establishments' actions during the handling and slaughter process. In this area, you observe animal handling, stunning practices [except for ritual slaughter which does not require stunning; ritual slaughter is considered by law to be humane when it is done in conformity with the HMSA (see the appendix to Directive 6900.2)] and assess the animals for consciousness after stunning (or the ritual cut). Additionally, you verify that no dressing procedures (e.g. freeing tissues in preparation for dressing procedures, leg removal, ear removal, horn removal, opening hide patterns, head skinning, harvesting of tissue/organs, etc.) occur until after an animal is insensible due to stunning or loss of blood.
Today the establishment is ritually slaughtering cattle. As a steer is being moved into the restrainer, it balks. You observe that the livestock handler does not use the electric prod, but waits several seconds then touches the steer on the back and the animal moves into the restrainer. You note that the animal is handled according to 9 CFR 313 with a minimum of excitement and discomfort to the animal. You recognize, at this point in the process, that the animal is now being handled and slaughtered under HMSA (7 USC 1901-1906) which addresses ritual slaughter. The ritual slaughter cut is made, by the religious authority, and the animal is bleeding adequately. You continue to watch for a few seconds and notice that the animal blinks but that it is not struggling or showing any signs of distress. You continue observing the animal to verify that it is insensible prior to any dressing procedures being performed by the plant. At this moment an establishment employee moves in front of you; the employee cuts through the trachea and esophagus and frees this tissue from the surrounding musculature with a firm pulling motion and cuts other tissue from the cervical area and throws it in a tub. The trachea and esophagus are dangling from the neck of the animal. This second cut was performed by a person other than the religious authority making the ritual slaughter cut; it therefore does not fall under the HMSA but is considered a part of the dressing process. Note: The DO should be contacted for further guidance any time a second cut is made by the religious authority or by an establishment employee with that authority delegated to them. (In some establishments the ritual slaughter cut is performed by an establishment authorized employee in place of an actual religious authority, e.g. in Halal slaughter establishments using a taped blessing.)
You are concerned as to whether the animal is sensible during this process and plan to call the DVMS in your District. But before you can call the District or adequately examine the animal, the establishment releases the animal from the restrainer, and it falls to the floor. The steer begins to right itself, and then stands, and starts to stumble around in the bleeding area, flopping its head on adjacent equipment. You immediately notify establishment personnel that they have an animal that is conscious (at a point in the process where it should be unconscious) and that they need to render it insensible. You wait to verify that the establishment effectively renders the animal unconscious. At this point you reject the restrainer, by placing a U. S. Reject tag on the restrainer, and then you inform the plant that the slaughter operation is suspended. You take these actions because the plant personnel performed a dressing procedure on a conscious animal, and because they failed to react appropriately to address a suffering, conscious animal. In addition you inform establishment management that they will be receiving an NR for this egregious violation. At this point you proceed to the USDA office and notify the DVMS and District Manager of this egregious violation of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, and that the restrainer has been tagged according to 9 CFR 313.50, 9 CFR 500.2, and 9 CFR 500.3 (b).
As a critical thinker you have observed several things that cause concern. The animal appeared to show signs of consciousness at the time the establishment employee began the dressing procedure of cutting into the neck and freeing up the tissues. You observed that after the animal was released from the restrainer, righted itself, stood and stumbled around the immediate slaughter area; this observation verified that the animal was conscious (sensible) when the dressing procedure had occurred. You are additionally concerned that the establishment made no attempt to immediately address this animal by rendering it unconscious following the established protocol for corrective actions.
The establishment management argues with you that because the activity of performing a dressing procedure on a conscious animal and their failure to address the suffering animal after it was released from the restraint happened during ritual slaughter, you have no right to halt the kill. You inform them of FSIS Directive 6900.2, Revision 1 which says: "Inspection program personnel are to verify that after the ritual slaughter cut and any additional cut to facilitate bleeding, no dressing procedure (e.g., head skinning, leg removal, ear removal, horn removal, and opening hide patterns) is performed until the animal is insensible." You remind them that dressing procedures are separate from the ritual slaughter cut and any additional cut to facilitate bleeding. You further explain that only the handling and slaughter steps in connection with the ritual slaughter cut is considered humane, and that no further processing of any kind is permitted until the animal is unconscious (insensible). Additionally you reflect on all of the events of the day, and decide that at the next PBIS meeting you will discuss with plant management, how implementing and maintaining a systematic approach to humane handling and slaughter best assures compliance with the HMSA, FMIA and implementing regulations as per F.R. Notice 69:174 (September 9, 2004).
Conclusion: The Noncompliance Record documented the inhumane slaughter of a bovine. The PHV recognized through professional judgment that the bovine was showing signs of consciousness and that the plant employee had performed a dressing procedure on the conscious animal.
The Noncompliance Record (NR) using the 04C02 task code and the "Protocol" trend indicator (FSIS Notice 50-02), citing the HMSA of 1978 and FSIS Directive 6900.2 Rev. 1, would be written.
At the top of Block 10 of the NR, you identify the category of activity under HATS that was being performed at the time of the noncompliance, which is "Category IX – Check for unconscious animal on the rail." (This is the appropriate category to cite because there is no stunning process to evaluate as in Category VIII. The connection to make is that no further dressing procedures, cuts, shackling, hoisting, etc., should be made to an animal until it is unconscious. The PHV would not be expected to wait until the animal is physically present on a rail, to assess consciousness, as these activities happen prior to an animal being put on a rail.)
Federal Register Notice Humane Handling and Slaughter Requirements and the Merits of a Systematic Approach to Meet Such Requirements. Vol. 69, No. 174, September 9, 2004 . (Docket No. 04-013N).
9 CFR 313.2; Driving of livestock from the unloading ramps to the holding pens and from the holding pens to the stunning area shall be done with a minimum of excitement and discomfort to the animals. Livestock shall not be forced to move faster than a normal walking speed.
FSIS Directive 6900.2 Revision 1; "Inspection program personnel are to verify that after the ritual slaughter cut and any additional cut to facilitate bleeding, no dressing procedure (e.g., head skinning, leg removal, ear removal, horn removal, opening hide patterns) is performed until the animal is insensible."
9 CFR 313.50 (c); If the cause of the inhumane treatment is the result of improper stunning, the inspector shall attach a "U.S. Rejected" tag to the stunning area.
9 CFR 500.2; Regulatory Control Action.
9 CFR 500.3(b): FSIS also may impose a suspension without providing the establishment prior notification because the establishment is handling or slaughtering animals inhumanely.
Humane Methods of Livestock Slaughter Act of 1978, URL address: http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/7/ch48.html