USDA Sued Over 'Downer' Cow Rules

A worker throws a piece of meat among cattle carcass scraps dropped into a truck at the Hallmark Meat Packing slaughterhouse in Chino, Calif. in this Jan. 30, 2008 file photo. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recalled 143 million pounds of frozen beef from from Chino-based Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. a Southern California slaughterhouse that is being investigated for mistreating cattle. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
By  | 

Los Angeles (AP) The Humane Society is taking the federal government to court over what it says is a legal loophole affecting the nation's meat supply.

The lawsuit says a USDA rule change last July allows sick or crippled cattle, called “downers,” into the food chain.

In 2004, USDA tightened regulations to prohibit the slaughter of all “downer” cows, animals that cannot stand, after a case of mad cow disease was discovered in Washington state. The lawsuit alleges that under last year's change, cows that fell down after an initial veterinarian inspection but appeared otherwise healthy were allowed to be slaughtered.

The lawsuit asks the USDA to close the loophole to protect consumers and ensure the humane treatment of animals.

USDA issued the largest beef recall in history February 17th after the Humane Society released undercover video showing workers at a California-based meat company shoving sick or crippled cows with forklifts to get them to stand.