Earthjustice, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition on Monday (June 29) seeking a ban on the on-site incineration and unlined burial of farm animals killed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The legal petition was filed by the three on behalf of 14 organizations. In addition to the ban, the petition urges USDA to create a publicly accessible online database that tracks federal assistance for mass carcass disposal and provides people living near carcass-disposal locations information needed to protect themselves from pollution.
“There are real risks to people here, as well as the environment, from the disposal of these animals," said Hannah Connor, an attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Burying or burning animals on this scale pollutes our air and threatens rural water supplies.”
The USDA has acknowledged that burial in unlined pits and on-site incineration pose threats to air and water quality. Mass burial can contaminate the surrounding environment with pollutants. Burning animal carcasses releases air pollution.
“These disposal methods are among the most dangerous for human health and severely threaten drinking water safety — yet there’s zero transparency when it comes to where these mass burials or incinerations happen," said Valerie Baron, a senior attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council.
“The USDA is already assisting with the disposal of animal carcasses during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Alexis Andiman, an attorney with Earthjustice. “It’s up to the USDA to make sure that taxpayer dollars protect communities and the environment instead of putting vulnerable people at greater risk.”
Other groups joining the petition include: Animal Legal Defense Fund, Association of Irritated Residents, Cape Fear River Water, Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, Coastal Carolina Riverwatch, Environmental Working Group, Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, MountainTrue, Sound Rivers and Waterkeeper Alliance.