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Animal activist group asks FSIS for more regulation of ‘Custom Exempt’ slaughter


A multi-million dollar Washington D.C.-based nonprofit, the Animal Welfare Institute, has filed the second petition this year seeking a policy change with USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

The Animal Welfare Institute petition has been assigned to the FSIS Office of Policy and Program Development for review and assigned petition number 23-02. 

The petition asks FSIS to amend the oversight of review processes for the Custom Exempt slaughter establishments.

Custom slaughtering and preparation activities are exempt from Federal inspection under the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) and the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA). Custom Exempt slaughtering or preparation is for an owner’s animal exclusively “for use in the household of such owner, by him and members of his household and his nonpaying guests and employees” and is exempt from (continual) federal inspection.

Petition 23-02 seeks changes in the Custom Exempt directive to require that periodic or annual inspections be carried out on dates and time when the slaughter is occurring. Further changes called for include: that voluntary animal welfare practices be made mandatory; that inspectors follow instructions; that the Custom-Exempt “loophole” be eliminated; and that neglect and abuse be reported under state animal cruelty laws.

The animal activists also want Custom Exempt Slaughter establishments to lose their grants of inspections over humane violations.

“Custom-exempt slaughter in the United States poses a serious risk to animal welfare,” the petition claims.

“All evidence reviewed by AWI points to animals at custom-exempt establishments being at high risk for inhumane treatment,” it adds. “Custom-exempt plants are not regularly reviewed, and in many cases when they are reviewed, slaughter itself is not observed. Very few HMSA violations are documented in custom-exempt reviews, despite the fact that federal inspection records indicate that serious non-compliances are occurring. Plants suspended from federally inspected slaughter are still allowed to perform custom-exempt slaughter. Eligibility to conduct custom-exempt slaughter is rarely if ever removed.”

The first petition submitted to FSIS in 2023 for a policy change seeks to lift the ban on livestock lungs as human food.

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