The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has issued a directive with new instructions to its inspectors that will better ensure that treatment of livestock during handling and slaughter minimizes the animal’s amount of excitement, pain, injury or discomfort.

The directive also includes a definition for "egregious inhumane treatment." Under this definition, an egregious situation is any act or condition that results in severe harm to animals, which includes the excessive beating or prodding of disabled livestock, stunning animals and allowing them to regain consciousness or any treatment causing unnecessary pain and suffering.

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During the past two years, the FSIS has implemented a number of measures to strengthen humane handling enforcement. On Dec. 22, 2010, the FSIS issued new instructions to its inspectors to condemn and promptly euthanize all non-ambulatory mature cattle. On March 14, 2009, the USDA issued a final rule to amend federal meat inspection regulations to require a complete ban on the slaughter of non-ambulatory cattle for use in human food. The FSIS also created 24 new humane handling enforcement positions, including 23 in-plant personnel and a headquarters-based Humane Handling Enforcement Coordinator.