Two animal rights activist organizations, Animal Welfare Institute and Farm Sanctuary, yesterday sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture in federal court for “failing to require humane handling of poultry at slaughter, resulting in adulterated (i.e., damaged or contaminated) products that violate the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA).”

The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court for the Western District of New York by Harvard Law School’s new Animal Law & Policy Clinic.

In 2013, AWI and Farm Sanctuary filed a similar petition with FSIS to “use the authority granted to it by Congress to codify poultry humane handling standards into enforceable regulations.” FSIS denied the petition.

“Poultry processors consider the welfare of the birds a top priority,” noted NCC Senior Vice President of Scientific and Regulatory Affairs Ashley Peterson, Ph.D. “Not only is it the right thing to do ethically, but it does not make economic sense to mistreat the birds.

“USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has guidelines and directives addressing appropriate handling of birds under the federal Poultry Products Inspection Act, and chicken processors strictly adhere to their animal welfare guidelines. This whole process is routinely audited internally, by independent third party auditors and by customers. It is monitored on a continuous basis by FSIS inspectors.”