From Farm to Fork presentation
by Gail Eisnitz
Gail Eisnitz feeding a friend
The following is from a presentation given by Gail Eisnitz of the
Humane Farming Association on September 18,
1999 at the "From Farm to Fork: Reclaiming Our Food System from Corporate
Giants" Symposium presented by the Clean Water Alliance. Some pictures
from her slaughterhouse investigations are available in our
It is a pleasure to be here today.
Today I'm going to discuss two investigations I've conducted in the
last few years that have a direct link to consolidation in the meat
industry. First, I'd like to talk a little bit about the way in which hogs
are raised and housed inside massive confinement operations, and secondly,
I'd like to talk about some of the findings that I report in my new book
While the majority of emphasis on hog factories in recent years has
focused on what's going on outside these operations--the environmental
effects like odors, water pollution--I've been focusing on what's taking
place in the indoor environment. What I've learned is that corporate
agribusiness's contempt for the rights of others doesn't stop with the
farmers and communities it's displacing. Or with pollution or massive fish
kills. Corporate agribusiness's bulldozer mentality extends right on down
to the way factory farmers systematically abuse the animals in their care.
That which supports the entire pork infrastructure--the pigs
themselves--are nothing more than raw materials to the greedy corporations
that profit off of them.
In 1997, a single hog corporation in Oklahoma reported losses of
420,000 dead hogs--that's 48 hogs dying every hour. These and millions of
other hogs on corporate factory farms didn't die naturally. They died as a
result of the hostile, stressful, disease-promoting conditions inside
these massive factories. Or they died because, in a business where product
uniformity is more important than anything else, they didn't make weight.
Or they died because after permanent immobilization inside tiny crates for
years, they could no longer stand. Unable to reach their food troughs,
they starved to death. And many died violently. Thousands of piglets that
were sick or didn't grow fast enough were beaten to death. The industry
calls this thumping or PACing: the industry acronym for "Pound Against
Concrete." Others were flushed alive from waste pits into manure lagoons.
Pregnant sows were beaten with gate rods, wrenches, and hammers; others
had their throats cut while they were still alive, some had cesarians
performed on them while they were still alive and fully conscious. And
thousands, unable to walk, were dragged by their ears and feet and
deposited in piles, where they were simply left to die slowly of
starvation or dehydration.
The following is a description by factory farm workers of the standard
hog factory practice of "thumping" in which workers pick up pigs by their
hind legs, whirl them over their shoulders, and bash them headfirst into
the concrete floor.
"We've thumped as many as 120 pigs in one day. We just swing them,
thump them, then toss them aside. Then, after you've thumped ten, twelve,
fourteen of them, you take them to the chute room and stack them up for
the dead truck. And if you go in the chute room and some are still alive,
then you have to do this whole procedure all over again. There've been
times I've walked in that room and pigs would be running around with an
eyeball hanging down the side of their face, just bleeding like crazy, or
their jaw would be broken. I've seen them with broken backs, where they've
been knocked unconscious for a few minutes, but then they're trying to get
"Some of those guys thump them, then they just stand on top of their
throats. Whether it's to keep them from moving or to suffocate them, they
stand on top of their throats and wait til they die. They break their jaws
and everything while they're doing it."
"You can't really swing the bigger pigs. One time I walked in and the
guys were using two by fours and hammers and gate rods and everything else
to kill them pigs. "
"We had a total of 138 one day," said a woman at another farm. "And the
guys who were supposed to thump them didn't kill them all. I went back in
that room after they'd left, because I was supposed to pick up all the
dead bodies, and there were pigs with blood just running down their heads.
And they were up walking around. Here these animals had the courage to
make it through the first thumping, and here I have to go and thump them
In US hog factories, millions of breeding sows spend their entire lives
inside tiny metal cages so small that they can never walk or turn around.
The practice, called "crating" has been outlawed on the grounds of cruelty
in several European nations. When first crated, sows scream and crash
their bodies against the side bars of their stalls. Over days, months, and
years of confinement, they develop increased levels of corticosteroids
associated with high stress and exhibit mourning behavior and other signs
of learned helplessness and steriotypies similar to those in humans
suffering from chronic psychiatric disorders. They are provided no bedding
or nesting material so their dung can fall through to the waste pit below.
They live--eat, sleep, defecate, give birth and nurse their young--on
concrete or metal slatted floors. They develop severe respiratory
disorders from inhaling their own fumes (even workers are provided gas
masks). And a large percentage of these sows collapse after years of
immobilization in crates or have to be culled because of the severe
arthritis that results from this type of warehousing.
When the pregnant sows are ready to give birth, they are moved from
gestation crates into farrowing crates. "They beat the shit out of the
sows to get them inside the crates because they don't want to go," said a
female worker. "One guy smashed a sow's nose in so bad that she ended up
dying of starvation." "We had one too with his nose smashed in," said
another. "A 600 pound boar. Smashed him in there. He finally died."
"On the farm where I work," said a worker, "they drag live pigs who
can't stand up any more out of the crate. They put a metal snare around
her ear or front foot and they drag her the full length of the building.
And these animals are just screaming in pain. They're dragging them across
the concrete. It's ripping their skin. These metal snares are tearing up
"When sows can't stand up anymore and we have to kill 'em to perform
C-sections, we wait until within a week of farrowing and we kill her and
cut her open, then we drag her outside to the Dumpster. We use a stun gun
or we get a hammer and start beating the head. Until they die."
One animal group recently released videotape shot at a North Carolina
factory farm. They asked me to speak at their press conference, because so
many of the abuses depicted on the tape were already reported in my book
as standard practices at the hog farms I'd visited across the United
States. The tape documents sows being beaten with gate rods and violated
with canes, struck in the head with wrenches, sows being kicked, stomped
on, and dragged down alleyways, having their throats slowly cut with a
tiny scalpel while they were still fully conscious, sows being killed by
having cinderblocks dropped on their heads, and sows being skinned alive
and having their legs removed with a hack-saw while they were still fully
conscious and moaning. Anyone who wants to see first hand the realities of
factory hog farms should stop by my booth and watch this brief videotape.
Because factory breeding and feeder pigs are maintained under such
stressful and unnatural conditions, they are incredibly susceptible to
disease spread. So, before even entering these so-called farms, or before
leaving them, workers are required to shower in/shower out of these
facilities, with plant management providing on-site clothing right down to
their underwear. Another example of the extreme measures used to keep
animals alive under these hostile conditions: If a pig being transported
by truck between barns accidentally touches the ground during unloading,
or a pig escapes its barn, contact with Earth is so dangerous to the other
pigs that that pig is immediately killed. Another example of the hostile
conditions: When electrical power is lost from lightening strikes, tens of
thousands of pigs routinely suffocate on the fumes of their own wastes.
Just how wasteful are these operations? One worker summed it up. She
was telling me about a pig that was supposed to be transported from the
nursery to the grower barn and how she had didn't ship it for three weeks
because it was lame. "Then she got too big, we couldn't ship her out. She
ended up having to be killed." In short, she was killed because she was
In a rare instance, a worker was allowed to take home 20 pigs that had
been slated for thumping. "We turned them loose on my dad's farm," he
said. "They ran around in the mud like normal pigs. Grew to maturity.
Really healthy. No diseases." The worker told me how he wanted to go into
business raising pigs the company planned to kill. "I would've made a
fortune," he said.
These staggering death losses are not considered a major financial
drain to factory farmers because dead hogs are simply picked up by "dead
trucks" which make daily rounds, and then they're trucked to rendering
plants, ground up, and fed back to live pigs, cattle, and other animals. A
person can visit a rendering plant and see a constant flow of dead pigs
being dumped from dump trucks and tractor trailers into auger pits 24
hours a day, seven days a week.
Nor is value placed on animal life in the transportation process,
because insurance carriers pick up losses en route to the slaughterhouse.
In the summer, massive numbers of pigs die from suffocation. In the
winter, thousands of pigs arrive at slaughterhouses frozen as solid as
"In the winter, some hogs come in all froze to the sides of the trucks.
They tie a chain around them and jerk them off the walls of the truck,
leave a chunk of hide and flesh behind. They might have a little bit of
life left in them, but workers throw them on piles of dead ones. They'll
die sooner or later because there's nothing left to them."
Before I radically shift gears here and talk about the findings of my
slaughterhouse investigation, I just thought I'd take a minute to mention
some unprecedented litigation that Humane Farming Association has
spearheaded against a giant corporate hog producer. Last year, we sued to
Bureau of Indian Affairs in an effort to halt construction of what was
scheduled to be the third largest hog farm in the WORLD. The Bureau had
approved the project--scheduled to produce 859,000 hogs a year--on South
Dakota Indian lands without conducting adequate environmental studies. As
a result of our lawsuit, the Bureau was forced to reverse itself and void
the lease for the operation. Since that time, a federal judge ruled that
the Bureau couldn't halt the operation once construction had begun. The
Bureau and HFA have appealed that ruling. In the meantime, all
construction has stopped, the Tribe has been made aware of the damaging
effects of the operation and is now strongly opposing it, and it looks
like we may be able to permanently stop further construction.
So now I'll shift gears to slaughterhouses. In the last fifteen years,
more than 2,000 small to mid-sized packing plants--or one-third of the
nation's packing plants--have been forced out of business by a few large,
high-speed operations, each with the capacity to kill millions of animals
a year. Today 14 plants slaughter half of all cattle in the country, and
something like 10 plants slaughter half of the country's 101 million hogs,
plus another 3 million from Canada.
With fewer slaughterhouses killing a growing number of animals,
slaughter "line speeds" have skyrocketed. Today, individual workers kill
as many as 1,100 hogs per hour--that's one pig every three seconds. One
plant I visited kills almost 150,000 hogs a week and had requested
permission from regulators to increase that number to nearly 190,000.
In these operations, where a minute of "down time" can spell a loss of
many hundreds of dollars, a production mentality has emerged where that
line doesn't stop for anything: not for injured workers, not for
contaminated meat, and certainly not for slow or uncooperative animals. In
these operations, workers resort to brutality to keep the production line
running uninterrupted in order to keep their jobs.
The Humane Slaughter Act was passed 41 years ago. It requires that
animals in federally inspected slaughterhouses be handled humanely and
that they be rendered unconscious with one application of an effective
stunning device prior to being shackled and hoisted up on the line. Once
stunned, animals must remain unconscious during shackling, hoisting,
bleeding, and butchering.
Stunning is accomplished in a variety of ways. Cattle are rendered
unconscious or "knocked" with a captive bolt gun. A worker stands over the
animal and shoots a metal rod into the head. After stunning, the cow has a
shackle placed around a hind leg, is hoisted up on to a moving rail, has
the throat cut--that process is called "sticking" and is performed by the
"sticker"--is supposed to bleed out for several minutes, and then is
skinned and dismembered.
Pigs are stunned with electricity, they are shocked into
unconsciousness, shackled, hoisted up on the rail, they have their throats
cut, and then, after bleeding out for several minutes, they are dragged
through a long tank of scalding water to loosen their bristles for
The Humane Slaughter Act also requires that disabled animals are never
to be dragged and are to be protected from inclement weather; that pipes
and sharp objects are not to be used to prod animals; that animals have
access to water at all times, basic things like that. Humane Slaughter Act
regulations authorize USDA meat inspectors and veterinarians stationed in
slaughter plants, whose primary responsibility is to inspect meat for
wholesomeness after animals are slaughtered, to stop the slaughter process
when violations occur and are not immediately corrected.
My initial complaint came from a USDA employee down in Florida who
claimed that, due to time constraints, cows at his plant were not being
properly stunned or bled, and as a result, were having their heads skinned
while they were still fully conscious. I was able to document his
allegations. Next, I learned about a midwest plant where thousands of pigs
were being scalded to death. The electrical stunning equipment at that
plant was marking the hogs' loins, and so, despite the importance of
adequate electrical current in the stunning process, the plant decided to
solve the problem by reducing the amount of electricity in the stunner.
Stunning the pigs without the necessary electricity was not rendering them
unconscious. As a result, countless thousands of hogs were being shackled
alive and since they were struggling, it was difficult to cut their
throats properly to get an adequate bleed; then the hogs weren't given
enough time to bleed fully, and so they were being immersed in and dragged
through the scalding tank alive, kicking and splashing water all over and
squealing. I also learned that frustrated stunners, shacklers, and
stickers were beating pigs with pipes, poking their eyes out, chasing them
into the scalding tank alive, crushing their skulls. They stuck electric
prods up animals' butts and in their eyes and held them there. They
dragged disabled animals with meat hooks in their mouths and anuses until
their intestines ripped out. When there was down time, workers
half-stunned pigs with electricity to watch them flip up in the air. They
allowed disabled animals to freeze to concrete floors, and then stay there
for days; they chain-sawed hogs alive into pieces for rendering.
Some quotes from my interviews with workers. This is just a tiny
"These hogs get up to the scalding tank, hit the water, and just start
screaming and kicking. I'm not sure whether the hogs burn to death before
drowning. The water is 140 degrees, not that hot. I don't believe the hogs
go into shock, because it takes them a couple of minutes to stop
thrashing. I think they die slowly from drowning."
"After a while you become desensitized. And as far as animals go,
they're a lower life-form. They're maybe one step above a maggot. When you
got a live, conscious hog, you not only kill it, you want to make it hurt.
You go in hard, blow the windpipe, make it drown in its own blood. Take
out an eyeball, split its nose. A live hog would be running around the pit
with me. It would be looking up at me and I would just take my knife
and--eerk--take its eye out while it was just sitting there. And this hog
would just scream.
"One time, I took my knife--it's sharp enough--and I sliced off the end
of a hog's nose, just like a piece of lunch meat. The hog went crazy for a
few seconds. Then it just sat there looking kind of stupid. So I took a
handful of salt brine and ground it into his nose. Now that hog really
went nuts, pushing its nose all over the place. I still had a bunch of
salt left on my hand and I stuck the salt right up the hog's ass. The poor
hog didn't know whether to shit or go blind.
"Another time, there was a live hog in the pit. It hadn't done anything
wrong, wasn't even running around. It was just alive. I took a three foot
chunk of pipe and I literally beat that hog to death. I'll bet there
couldn't have been a two inch diameter piece of solid bone in his head.
Basically, if you want to put it in laymen's terms, I crushed his skull."
"If you get a hog in the chute that refuses to move, you take a meat
hook and clip it into his anus. You try to do this by clipping the
hipbone. Then you drag him backwards. Your dragging these hogs alive, and
a lot of times the meat hook rips out of the bunghole. I've seen
hams--thighs--completely ripped open. I've also seen intestines come out.
If the hog collapses near the front of the chute, you shove a meat hook
into his cheek and drag him forward."
"The preferred method of handling a cripple is to beat him to death
with a lead pipe before he gets into the chute. It's called 'piping'. All
the drivers use pipes to kill hogs that can't go through the chutes. Or if
a hog refuses to go into the chutes and is stopping production, you beat
him to death."
"Hogs are stubborn. Beating them in the head seems to work about the
best. Piece of rebar about an inch across, you force a hog down the alley,
have another guy standing there with a piece of rebar in his hand. It's
just like playing baseball. Just like somebody pitching something at you."
Sadly, this was just the beginning of my investigation. Every time I
thought I'd encountered the worst violations I could imagine, I'd visit
another pig, horse, and cattle plant with even more horrendous violations.
The workers I talked with represented 2,000,000 hours on the kill floor.
They told me that they routinely had to pound away at cows' and horses'
heads with ineffective captive bolt guns in order to render the animals
unconscious. Workers strangled cattle with cables when they were dragging
them up to the stun area, they listened to bones cracking and necks
popping when they dragged horses. They used saws or blow-torches to remove
the legs of live cattle that were stuck in trucks, in chutes, and in the
stun area. They drove over the legs and heads of disabled animals with
tractors; they routinely skinned heads, bellies, sides and rumps, removed
legs, ears, horns, and tails, and began eviscerating cattle that were
"When a cow arrives at the first hind-legger [who removes the legs],
usually the legger tries to make a cut to start skinning out the leg. But
it's hard to do that when the cow is kicking violently. A lot of times the
leggers'll take their clippers and cut off the cow's leg right below the
knee--the skinny part. The cow'll continue to kick, but it don't have that
long of a reach."
"Outside of the weak ones, just about every cow I stunned had to be hit
between three and five times just to get it to go down. There were plenty
of times you'd have to make a big hole in their head, shooting them eight
or nine times. And they'd still be alive. I remember one time I saw the
other knocker at the plant shoot a bull twelve times, and still it
wouldn't go down. "
"Sometimes a steer would get its head stuck in the restrainer [the
conveyance that cattle ride up to the stun operator in]. You couldn't stun
it at that point, so you'd end up cutting its head off while the steer was
still alive. Or, there've been a lot of cases where the beef almost falls
through the restrainer, and it struggles and twists so bad that the
restrainer wouldn't move. A lot of times what happens is we just chop the
leg off. We do it with a saw."
"Sometimes they go pretty far. Sometimes they have all the skin out and
they're all peeled. Sometimes you can tell they're alive because when you
look at their eyes, you can see the tears of a cow. And their eyes are
moving and everything. But mainly they just make a lot of noise and are
trying to kick."
"Cows that get hurt, they call them 'haulers'. You take an electric
winch, latch it on to one of her legs--it's supposed to be a leg--and drag
her all the way through he kill alley to the knocking box. You can always
tell them because when they come out on the line, they're covered with cow
shit from being drug through the kill alley. If you can't get her leg, it
goes around her neck, and by the time she gets up here, she's almost dead.
It's literally strangling her."
"I've seen beef still alive at the flankers, more often at the 'ears
and horns'. That's a long way. I've seen them over where they take the
hide off with the down-puller. I've heard them moo when people with air
knives were trying to take the hide off. I think it's cruel for the animal
to be dying little by little while everybody's doing their various jobs on
'The majority of the cows they hang up, the majority of them are still
alive. They open them up. Skin them. They're still alive. They're skinned
out. Their feet are cut off. They have their eyes wide open and they're
crying. They're yelling, and you can see their eyes popping out."
Prosecutors aren't interested in slaughterhouse cases for a variety of
reasons, and the media was only interested in meat contamination. So I
decided to work the contaminated meat angle, since it was also directly
linked to industry consolidation and exhorbitant line speeds. Working with
a Washington, DC law firm which represents government whistleblowers, I
found that due to increased line speeds and pressure from USDA supervisors
not to interfere with industry profits, inspectors were virtually
powerless even to enforce meat safety regulations.
I examined poultry slaughter practices. Did you know that we are
currently slaughtering as many chickens in one day as we did in the entire
year of 1930? Anyway, I learned about expedient slaughter technologies
that, while allowing a single plant to kill as many a half million birds a
day, were resulting in increased contamination rates. Today, our poultry
is so filthy that plants have to decontaminate it with chlorine--in this
use chlorine is potentially carcinogenic--at the end of the production
process. The entire European Union won't even import US poultry because
they say they can't count on decontamination to produce a safe product
when the product doesn't have to be contaminated in the first place.
Next I looked at expedient beef inspection programs that USDA
officials--generally corporate agribusiness leaders from the private
sector who had been temporarily appointed to head up the meat inspection
program--had put in place over the years to allow for increases in line
speeds. These programs has produced dangerously contaminated beef.
I interviewed parents who had taken their kids out for hamburgers to
celebrate good report cards and such and then watched as their children's
bodies were slowly dismantled organ by organ until, after days or weeks,
they finally died from E.coli 0157 poisoning. After looking at the CDC
statistics, it became apparent that deaths from foodborne illness had
quadrupled in the last 15 years, as consolidation and line speeds had
If, thanks to pressure from corporate agribusiness, meat inspectors
couldn't even protect the public from deadly meat, which they perceived as
their primary responsibility, then surely they couldn't stop the line for
animal suffering. When I met with the chairman of the 6,000 member meat
inspectors' union, he told me that due to industry consolidation,
increased line speeds, and inspection policies developed in collusion with
the meat industry, USDA meat inspectors are totally powerless to enforce
During our conversations, and in subsequent discussions with scores of
other meat inspectors, it became apparent that, while inspectors are the
individuals charged by Congress with enforcing humane regulations, they
are not even stationed in the areas of the plants where animals are being
handled or killed. No one is stationed in these areas of the plants.
What's more, while the regulations required inspectors to stop the line
when they observed violations, no where did the regulations require the
inspectors to visit the areas of the plants where they could observe
violations! Thus, the inspectors told me, if they stopped the production
line for Humane Slaughter Act violations, they would probably be
disciplined for abandoning their inspection stations and for impeding
"I've seen cattle dragged and choked, knocked four, five, ten times.
I've found them alive clear over to the rump stand. Takes them about ten
minutes to get to the rump stand. That's after they've been completely
legged [had their legs removed] and run through an electrical shock system
too [to facilitate bleeding]. They're up there sucking in air and
bellowing. Their eyes bugging out."
"One day when I went out to the suspect pen, two employees were using
metal pipes to club some hogs to death. There had to be twenty little hogs
out there that they were going to give to the rendering company. And these
two guys were out there beating them to death with clubs and having a good
"I went to the USDA vet, my supervisor, to complain. He said, 'They're
of no value because they're going to be tanked [rendered] anyway.' So,
according to my supervisor, it was all right to club those little hogs to
death. They were beating them like they do those little seals in Alaska."
"Dragging cattle with a chain and a forklift is standard practice at
the plant. And that's even after the forklift operator rolled over and
crushed the head of one downer while dragging another."
"I've seen them put twenty to twenty-five holes in a hog's head trying
to knock her and she was still on her feet. Her head looked like Swiss
cheese. Tough gal. Sometimes they'll use a twenty-two and shoot the hog
through its eye. Or you might have to hit both eyes on the same hog."
"Sometimes cattle fall through the bottom of the restrainer and they're
still alive. And the workers have to get them up anyway they can. So they
wrap a chain around it, lift it up, bust something. If it's a leg, they'll
break the leg. If it's the head, they'll break the neck. It usually
breaks, whatever they hook on to. You can hear the bones cracking a lot of
"An employee recently told me about a cow who got her leg stuck when
the floor of a truck collapsed. 'How'd you get her out alive?' I asked the
guy. 'Oh,' he said, 'we just went underneath the truck and cut her leg
off.' If somebody tells you this, you know there's a lot of things
nobody's telling you."
"A steer was running up the alley way and got his leg between the
boards and he couldn't get it out. They didn't want to lose any time
killing cattle and he was blocking their path, so they just used a blow
torch to burn his leg off while he was alive."
And if that's not bad enough, the USDA, at corporate agribusiness's
behest, has come up with ways to further deregulate the meat industry, to
remove inspectors from slaughterhouses. The fewer the number of inspectors
to try to stop the lines for contaminants, the faster the production lines
can go. In its latest inspection program, called Hazard Analysis Critical
Control Points, the USDA is actually attempting to remove the vast
majority of inspectors from plants. Not only does that compromise the
safety of the meat and poultry coming out of those plants, but it leaves
us wondering exactly who will be charged with enforcing the Humane
Slaughter Act if there aren't inspectors in the plants!
And it's not just USDA. As so many of you know, last year, US farmers
and ranchers who were required to contribute millions in check-off dollars
to beef, pork, and dairy trade associations--a total of a quarter of a
billion dollars for programs they didn't necessarily support. Thanks to
the incredible efforts of the Campaign for Family Farms, the Land
Stewardship Project, and the Livestock Marketing Association, we are
hopeful that we may finally see an end to these outrageous payments. Up
until now, however, despite the fact that these greedy commodity groups
have had an annual income of a quarter of a billion dollars to fritter
away, little to nothing has gone to ensure the humane slaughter of 142
million farm animals a year--the very source of their profits. The farmers
and ranchers who have read my book find this outrageous.
And those 142 milllion animals are the ones covered by the Humane
Slaughter Act. Then there are another 8.2 billion chickens that are exempt
from that law's coverage who are subject to incredible suffering at
slaughter. To immobilize birds for neck-cutting, US poultry processors, on
an average, use only about one-tenth the electrical current that would
adequately stun the birds. The result is that untold numbers of birds are
going into the scalding tank alive.
I also found during my investigation that it wasn't just the animals
and consumers who are victims of multinational corporate greed, but the
workers are victims as well. Many of these operations have 100 percent and
higher turnover rates per year. It's the most dangerous industry in the
country. Workers are chewed up and spit out. During the course of the
investigation, I documented people who had lost fingers, limbs, had
breasts caught in machines, people who had been burned and stabbed, people
who had been crushed by falling animals, people who had been killed or who
dropped dead on the line. But the real danger to the workers lies in
repetitive motion illnesses. Due to exorbitant line speeds, in the last 15
years, we've seen a 1000 percent increase in cumulative trauma disorders.
Even the meat industry itself reports that at current line speeds,
workers' bodies are physically used up after 5 years. In fact, that's why
these companies intentionally recruit illegal workers from places like
Mexico--that completely and conveniently protects them from insurance
And then there are the independent farmers whose lives are destroyed by
multinational corporate packers. Advance contracts with corporate hog
producers, vertical intergration, and what appeared to be the
carefully-timed shut down of an IBP Iowa plant in the middle of last
year's hog price crisis and the resulting massive bottleneck at the
nation's hog plants, drove hog prices down to disastrous levels. While
production exceeded 100 percent of slaughter capacity and farmers were
receiving $8 to $10 per hundredweight of animal and were unable to pay
their feed bills; while this catastrophe may ultimately spell the loss of
as many as 50,000 independent hog farms; IBP, Smithfield, and Seaboard
were enjoying record profits. IBP declared fourth quarter earnings to be
four times higher in 1998 than in 1997. Smithfield Foods reported fiscal
1999 net earnings for its year ended May 2 up 77 percent from the previous
A few months ago, I had the incredibly unique opportunity to confront
Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman on national TV. One morning, in a
motel room, when I rolled out of bed and flipped on the TV, I happened to
stumble across Glickman speaking on C-Span. Well, you can imagine, I
dialed and dialed until I finally got through. The fact that I was sitting
on my bed in my underwear talking to the Sec. of Agriculture only added to
Anyway, I explained who I was and I clearly elucidated what the
findings of my book were. He said he'd read my book, and that many people
at USDA were reading it. He expressed concern about the problem, but then
said the USDA's primary function is meat inspection. And then he went into
a cheerleading routine, telling me and America about the terrific job USDA
inspectors do when it comes to inspecting our meat. I guess that's why
we've seen a 25 million pound recall of ground beef and a 35 million pound
recall of hot dogs in the last few years. Oh, and incidentally, he said,
the USDA does not have the money to enforce the Humane Slaughter Act.
Over the course of my investigation, I faced many roadblocks:
informants were gagged and fired; one was actually stabbed to death; an
uncooperative boss impeded my efforts to the point where I was forced to
change employers; TV producers repeatedly got my hopes up that they would
expose the findings and then dropped the story because it was deemed too
graphic for public consumption; I became so physically depleted and
discouraged about ever exposing this information that I was struck with a
life threatening illness. But now, it's done. And it's all right here in
black and white.
This book is an incredibly powerful weapon in the war against greedy,
corporate agribusiness interests. This is the first time that slaughter
workers and federal meat inspectors--individuals who represent 2,000,000
hours of service on the kill floor--as well as factory farm workers, have
ever gone public in their own words, telling America about what is going
on behind the guard shacks of America's slaughterhouses, and the locked
doors of America's factory farms.
For 41 years, Americans have assumed that the Humane Slaughter Act was
being enforced. The public has a right to know that the USDA has violated
its trust. The public needs to know that thousands of helpless animals are
being brutalized in America's packing plants. That packers can brutalize
animals with impunity.
If you don't want to buy the book, go to your library. If they don't
have it, get them to order it. TV is not going to tell Americans about
these atrocities. Contact local radio stations, write letters to the
editor, convince anybody and everybody you can to read this book. Do
whatever you can to get this information out there. Help me to spread the
word! I am so grateful to know that there are so many people at this
conference who care and who can help us in the grassroots effort that's
necessary to change the nation's consciousness. Thanks to all of you for
being here to listen to me today!
Copyright (c) Gail A. Eisnitz/Humane
Farming Association. Chief Investigator Humane Farming Association