Officials at the USDA are calling for an independent review of the Meat Animal Research Center, a federal facility in Nebraska that was the subject of a New York Times exposé last week. The Times article alleged that lambs, pigs and cows are reportedly being subjected to cruel and experimental breeding techniques.

U.S Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Friday directed agency staff to create an updated animal welfare plan within 60 days, according to an internal email reviewed by Reuters.

According to the article, scientists are re-engineering farm animals to produce more offspring and yield more meat -- and at a lower cost -- in a process that subjects animals to “illness, pain and premature death, over many years,” according to the Times report. Pigs are being retooled to have up to 14 piglets, instead of the typical eight, but the babies are born frail and often end up crushed to death in overcrowded pens. Calves are born in greater numbers, but are weak and deformed.

“Please remember we all own the responsibility for animal welfare; if you see something that disturbs you, please report it, first to your supervisor or their supervisor,” Chavonda Jacobs-Young, who heads the department’s Agricultural Research Service, said in the Friday memo.

Source: International Business Times