Stop the Slaughter of Lame and Sick Calves


Target: Tom Vilsack, US Secretary of Agriculture

Goal: Close loophole allowing the slaughter of sick and lame calves for food

Despite United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations which ban the slaughter of downer cattle–those too sick, weak or lame to stand on their own–downer calves continue to be slaughtered for veal.

In 2009 the abuse of calves in a California plant forced the USDA to amend downer cattle regulations. These amendments extended to calves in theory, but the pre-slaughter inspection of downer cattle looks specifically at weight and age, both of which exempt downer calves from the humane euthanization given adult cattle that do not pass inspection. While the risk of mad cow disease may be lower in younger cows, there are still many health concerns involved in using sick animals of any kind for meat. As for the calves themselves, forcing them to live in the same pens as able-bodied cows and undergo the same treatment is inhumane and has led to many cases of abuse in slaughterhouses.

In March, 2013 a legal petition by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) insisting downer calves be treated the same as adult downer cattle was granted by the USDA, but no further action has been taken. The petition was written in 2009, despite the USDA not granting it until four years later. A letter written by 12 US senators demanding action states, “It has now been more than four years since HSUS requested this common-sense change, yet not even a proposed rule has been issued. Keeping disabled calves alive to suffer in pens is not only inhumane but also poses serious food safety threats.”

Urge the USDA to take immediate action and ban the slaughter of sick or disabled downer calves for food.


Dear Secretary Vilsack,

The USDA has agreed to apply the same regulations to downer calves as it does to downer cattle, but has yet to take any action. Forcing disabled and sick calves to live in the same pens as able-bodied cattle is inhumane, and allowing them to enter the food supply is unsafe.

The Humane Society has petitioned against this practice since 2009 when they leveled a legal petition against the USDA for its regulations on downer calves. Since then 12 US senators have joined the plea for change. After four long years it is time for action. I implore you to amend regulations to ban disabled and sick downer calves from being slaughtered for food.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Jjron via Wikimedia Commons

Sign the Petition

  • Only your name will be displayed. By signing, you accept our terms and may receive updates on this and related causes.
FacebookCare2 NewsTwitterEmailShare

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Facebook Comments


650 Signatures

  • Janet Delaney
  • Jill Ballard
  • Shayne O'Brien
  • Alice Rim
  • Amy Wilson
  • joan walker
  • sheila childs
  • Chris Verhaegen
  • Erin Borozny
  • Holly Hall
1 of 65123...65
Skip to toolbar