Reindeer Animal Rights Group Sues Bush For Abuse


(AP) Reindeer, buffalo and a Marin County farm animal protection group sued President Bush and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns Friday in federal court in San Francisco for allegedly allowing inhumane slaughter.

The lawsuit filed on the last court day before Christmas charges the Agriculture Department with failing to apply a federal humane slaughter law to the commercial killing of reindeer, buffalo and certain other animals for meat.

The plaintiffs listed in the lawsuit are reindeer, American bison and the Humane Farming Association, a farm animal protection group based in San Rafael.

A spokesperson for the Agriculture Department could not be reached for comment.

The lawsuit contends the federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act of 1958 requires humane slaughter techniques for all livestock. But the plaintiffs allege the Agriculture Department enforces the law by requiring slaughter inspections only for certain types of animals, including cattle, calves, pigs, sheep and horses.

The suit alleges the agency offers optional slaughter inspection for a fee, but does not require scrutiny, for the commercial slaughter of other animals including reindeer, bison, antelope, North American elk, ostrich and rabbit.

It claims that those animals "are commonly slaughtered in a manner which is intensely painful and otherwise inhumane."

The lawsuit alleges that the uninspected killing of reindeer, bison and other animals could cause Humane Farming Association members to suffer contamination-related illnesses and also affect them emotionally.

"These members heartily endorse the national policy embodied in the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act and suffer various levels of distress simply because they know of the rampant mistreatment of unprotected animals at the time of slaughter," the lawsuit says.

The lawsuit seeks a court order requiring Bush and Johanns to revise regulations to extend the humane slaughter requirements of the law to the currently unprotected species.

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