One aspect of the USDA's work is to promulgate regulations under the HMSA. (82) These regulations are intended to provide guidance to plant operators and to USDA inspectors.
No courts have been called upon to interpret the HMSA. (97) The only decision of note involving the HMSA was an Establishment Clause challenge to the ritual-slaughter exemption; the exemption was upheld.
Inadequate enforcement of the HMSA has been a problem since it was enacted.
(149) In short, adding enforcement of the HMSA to the list of duties to be performed by the FSIS was a recipe for ineffective enforcement.
As a result, non-compliance with the HMSA is widespread.
In 2001, it earmarked additional funds for enforcement of the HMSA leading the USDA to hire a veterinarian in each of its fifteen districts to oversee the enforcement of the HMSA.
(155) The report noted that FSIS inspectors had documented 675 HMSA violations in over 200 slaughterhouses in a period of about two years.
Improving enforcement of the HMSA will therefore be difficult so long as enforcement responsibility remains with the FSIS.
Equally important, it has no other ties to the meat industry; APHIS inspectors would be less susceptible to pressure from plant management to downplay or ignore HMSA violations.
If the responsibility for enforcing the HMSA remains with the FSIS, the FSIS could decide--or Congress could require--that a minimum number of FSIS inspectors, dedicated exclusively to enforcing the HMSA, be assigned to each federally inspected plant.
Perhaps the most serious problem with the HMSA is that it does not cover poultry--at least as presently interpreted by the USDA.
Some advocates believe that the HMSA can and should be read to cover poultry.