viewing: Meet Your Meat:
Undercover with Seabord Farms (#3 for pigs):
From Slaughterhouse, by Gail Eisnitz:
p. 24 The USDA, closely allied to the meat industry and opposed to the Humane Slaughter Act, was nevertheless made responsible for its enforcement. And while the intentional violation of the Federal Meat Inspection Act carries stiff fines and imprisonment, violations of the Humane Slaughter Act (HSA) carry no penalties at all. When inspectors observe violations of the HSA, however, they are required to stop the slaughter process until violations are corrected. Since "down time" can result in fewer profits for the day, the threat of USDA line stoppages is supposed to assure industry compliance with the law.
p. 62 In 1996 more than 40 percent of the nation's cattle were killed in a mere 11 plants that slaughter more than one million animals each year. Similarly, more than 40 percent of the nation's hogs were killed in 10 plants.
p. 71 [Slaughterhouse workers describe fully conscious pigs who were beaten over the head with a lead pipe (cracking skulls), stabbed for bleeding out, and then dunked (for hair removal) into 140-degree water].
p. 71 "There's no way these animals can bleed out in the few minutes it takes to get up the ramp. By the time they hit the scalding tank, they're still fully conscious and squealing. Happens all the time."
p. 76 [Anecdote about the link between violence toward animals and domestic violence. Working in a slaughterhouse will dull one's sense of compassion toward both animals and people, including loved ones.]
p. 84 Interview: "Bad-sticks [when the person who is supposed to be hitting the vein to send the blood flowing from the animals' bodies misses the vein] usually don't have enough time to bleed out. They end up drowning in the scalding tank before they ever bleed to death."
p. 85 Interview: "' I'd go to the office, I'd go to OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration], USDA. I'd say, look, we got live hogs here. Number one, people are getting cut. Number two, it's cruel. No one would take action. I was also the safety representative for the union, and I got lots of complaints about it.'"
p. 93 Interview about violence toward animals leading to human violence and complete desensitization: "It's the same thing with an animal who pisses you off, except it is in the stick pit, you are going to kill it. Only you don't just kill it, you go in hard, push hard, blow the windpipe, make it drown in its own blood. Split its nose. A live hog would be running around the pit. It would just be looking up at me and I'd be sticking, and I would just take my knife and -- eerk -- cut its eye out while it was just sitting there … 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 bologna … I took a handful of salt brine and ground it into his nose … I stuck the salt right up the hog's ass … It's not anything anyone should be proud of … It was my way of taking out frustration."
p. 94 Interview: "They make sure everything's by the book when anybody official visits. Whenever OSHA comes to check on things, the stick pit [where animals are bled out] runs like a jewel. As soon as they're gone, it's back to business as usual."
p. 101-102 When hogs arrive frozen at slaughterhouses -- which is a common occurrence -- their protections under the Humane Slaughter Act are mysteriously waved. Since they are of no value for human consumption, antemortem inspectors neither examine them nor make a decision as to their disposition. Nor are they provided shelter or promptly stunned. Instead they are left to fend for themselves until they die.
p. 105 "I asked Mike why the union hadn't brought the humane violations to the USDA's attention. Neither he nor the other local union officials were aware that the USDA had any enforcement authority regarding the humane treatment of livestock, or that there even was a Humane Slaughter Act."
p. 133 Interview: "Animal abuse is so common that workers who've been in the industry for years get into a state of apathy about it. After a while, it doesn't seem unusual anymore. In the wintertime there are always hogs stuck to the sides and floors of the trucks. They go in there with wires or knives and just cut or pry the hogs loose. The skin pulls right off. These hogs were alive when we did this. Animal abuse at Morrell is so commonplace nobody even thinks about it."
p. 145 Interview: "One time the knocking gun was broke all day, they were taking a knife and cutting the back of the cow's neck open while he's still standing up. They would just fall down and be ashaking. And they stab cows in the butt to make 'em move. Break their tails. They beat them so bad. I've drug cows till their bones start breaking, while they were still alive. Bringing them around the corner and they get stuck up in the doorway, just pull them till their hide be ripped, till the blood just drip on the steel and concrete. Breaking their legs pulling them in. And the cow be crying with its tongue stuck out. They pull him till his neck just pop."
p. 164 It used to take four months to grow a three-pound bird, he explained, and now, thanks to genetics and growth stimulants, it took only six weeks. That was more than their bodies could handle, he said, and so they flipped over, dead from a heart attack at the ripe old age of one month."
p. 164 Living on sloping wire floors, so that the eggs roll out to a conveyor belt, with the wire cutting into their feet, the hens' legs were deformed and their feet covered with blisters and sores. I remembered seeing a demonstration where a battery (caged) hen was released and placed on solid ground. The bird was so crippled, she couldn't even stand.
p. 166 Since it's easier to bleed a bird that isn't flapping and struggling, most live birds have their heads dragged through an electrically charged water bath to paralyze -- not stun -- them. Other industrialized nations require that chickens be rendered unconscious or killed prior to bleeding and scalding, so they won't have to go through those processes conscious. Here in the United States, however, poultry plants -- exempt from the Humane Slaughter Act and still clinging to the industry myth that a dead animal won't bleed properly -- keep the stunning current down to about one-tenth that needed to render a chicken unconscious.
p. 166 The nation's 243 million laying hens are neither rendered unconscious nor paralyzed. After a year or so of laying eggs, their bones are so brittle that immersion in electrically charged water would cause them to shatter.
p. 169 "'With the advent of modern slaughter technologies, said former USDA microbiologist Gerald Kuester, there are about fifty points during processing where cross-contamination can occur. At the end of the line, the birds are no cleaner than if they had been dipped into a toilet."
p. 173 USDA Inspector Interview: "'Anyone reading this may wonder why the inspectors didn't do something to stop the problems. The leadership at the Department of Agriculture wouldn't let us … We used to stop production for hours if necessary to get the facility cleaned up. But by the time I left, anyone who tried to do that would have to find another job."
p. 177 In 1991, a USDA microbiologist and leading authority on Campylobacter found the bacteria present in 98 percent of store-bought chickens. According to the National Academy of Sciences, studies of market-ready chickens found Campylobacter on up to 82 percent. And in a survey of fifty brand-name broilers in Georgia, a government researcher found 90 percent contaminated with Campylobacter.
Even Food Safety Review, the USDA's own publication, reported that "heavily contaminated flocks may result in a contamination rate of 100 percent for finished products." And again, even with chlorine and the other "improvements" in place, Campylobacter was found on up to 100 percent of the chickens coming out of the chill tank.
p. 181 GAP's [Government Accountability Project's] Tom Devine [says]: "Inspectors who have attempted to stop the line have been reprimanded, reassigned, physically attacked by plant employees and then disciplined for being in fights, had their performance appraisals lowered, been placed under criminal investigation, fired or been subjected to other forms of retaliation that were necessary to 'neutralize' them."
p. 181-183; Affidavits from meat inspectors re: contamination, such as the following sample: "Company employees told us that rats were all over the coolers at night, running on top of meat and gnawing at it … [W]e saw fecal contamination get through-up to one-foot smears-as well as flukes [liver parasites], grubs [wormlike fly larvae that burrow into the cow's skin and work their way through the animal's body], abscesses [encapsulated infections filled with pus], [hide] hair, and ingesta [partially digested food found in the stomach or esophagus]" ... "Cows are slaughtered that have been dead on arrival, some so long they are ice-cold."
p. 186 And, only when I'd seen the mockery meat inspection officials had made of their primary mandate -- ensuring meat and poultry wholesomeness -- did I really understand just how low a priority humane slaughter was, and why its enforcement was in such shambles.
p. 188-189 Interview: "To keep that production line moving, ... quite often uncooperative animals are beaten, they have prods poked in their faces and up their rectums, they have bones broken and eyeballs poked out."
p. 189-190 Interview: "Inspectors are required to enforce humane regulations on paper only. Very seldom do they ever go into that area and actually enforce humane handling and slaughter. They can't. They're not allowed to [because the inspector stations are at the beginning and end of the line, and they aren't allowed to leave their stations]."
p. 196 Interview: "Yes, we should be monitoring slaughter. But how can you monitor something like that if you're not allowed to leave your station to see what's going on?"
p. 196-201 Interviews: "Dragging cattle with a chain and forklift is standard practice at the plant," explained a long-term inspector at a large beef operation in Nebraska. "And that's even after the forklift operator rolled over and crushed the head of one downer while dragging another." … "[T]hey'll go through the skinning process alive. I saw that myself, a bunch of times. I've found them alive clear over to the rump stand." … "And that happens in every plant. I've worked in four large ones and a bunch of small ones. They're all the same." … "[E]verybody gets so used to it that it doesn't mean anything."… "[W]orkers drag cripples with a garden tractor and a chain …"
p. 206 Interview: "As a supervisor, the first thing you're going to ask is, 'How do you know that was happening? If you saw that, then who was doing your job?' That's neglect of duty."
p. 209 Interview: "'… [W]hen the USDA issued regulations in 1979 to assure the consumer that animals were being humanely handled and slaughtered, it was only paperwork. Really. It's only a big cover-up."
p. 210 Interview about USDA employees moving into cush industry jobs upon retirement: "Friedlander then named fourteen former USDA executives he personally knew who had recently moved directly into industry jobs. "Not just vets," he explained. "Training officers, area supervisors, regional directors, agency administrators, Washington staff officers."
p. 211 Interview: "In the summertime, when it's ninety, ninety-five degrees, they're transporting cattle from twelve to fifteen hundred miles away on a trailer, forty to forty-five head crammed in there, and some collapse from heat exhaustion. This past winter we had minus-fifty-degree weather with the windchill. Can you imagine if you were in the back of a trailer that's open and the windchill factor is minus fifty degrees, and that trailer is going fifty to sixty miles an hour? The animals are urinating and defecating right in the trailers, and after a while, it's going to freeze, and their hooves are right in it. If they go down -- well, you can imagine lying in there for ten hours on a trip."
p. 215-220 Anecdotes: "[Our legger] gets beef that's still conscious all the time. Sometimes almost every one…I've seen beef still alive at the flankers, more often at the 'ears and horns.' That's a long way."… "[T]hey drag the live ones who can't stand up anymore out of the crate. They put a metal snare around her ear or foot and drag her the full length of the building. These animals are just screaming in pain." … "Worn out sows are then dumped on a pile, where they stay -- for up to two weeks -- until the cull truck picks them up.
p. 228-229 [Secretary of Agriculture Edward Madigan says that the stunning, shackling, and sticking areas of a slaughterhouse are not areas where USDA inspectors are expected to be.]
p. 240-241 [In May 1989, JoAnn Smith was appointed assistant secretary of agriculture for Marketing and Inspection Services. She was a cattle rancher, previous president of the National Cattlemen's Association, previous chair of the Beef Board (public relations organ for the beef industry). Now, she was the "enforcer."]
p. 243 [GAP's Tom Devine]: "The very same officials who are charged with promoting the sale of agricultural products are also supposed to protect the consumers from filth and unscrupulous practices."
p. 243 As a result of the USDA's duplicitous mandate and its primary focus on marketing, the department's ranks have long been filled with industry leaders who have demonstrated their abilities at increasing industry profits … In fact, as far back as 1983, author Kathleen Hughes wrote Return to the Jungle, an exposé of the collusive partnership forged between the Reagan administration and the meat industry. By that time, Ronald Reagan had already appointed three agribusiness leaders to head up the USDA: the secretary of agriculture was John Block, a corporate hog producer from Illinois; the assistant secretary -- later to be secretary -- was Richard Lyng, president of the American Meat Institute; and the assistant secretary for Marketing and Inspection Services was William McMillan, a former meat-packing executive and vicepresident of the National Cattlemen's Association… And the trend has continued to this day.
p. 245 Don Tyson, the senior chairman of the board of Tyson Foods of Arkansas -- the world's largest poultry processor and one of the nation's leading seafood and pork producers -- maintains close ties to the White House. In addition to being a longtime Clinton friend, Tyson was also the second-largest contributor to a $220,000 fund that Clinton used to pursue his Arkansas political agenda.
p. 245 The only entities producing more chicken than Tyson Foods are the countries of Brazil and China.
p. 271: … [W]ith nearly thirty-six injuries or illnesses for every one hundred workers, meat packing is the most dangerous industry in the United States. In fact, a worker's chances of suffering an injury or an illness in a meat plant are six times greater than if that same person worked in a coal mine.
p. 278 Despite the fact that the feds had documented the sale of nearly two million pounds of tainted feed, the USDA was allowing clenbuterol-treated calves to be sold to the American public. Instead of alerting consumers to the widespread use of clenbuterol, the investigating agencies -- trying to protect the veal industry from what its members stated could be "potential ruin"-initiated a major news blackout.
p. 279 At a time when the USDA was telling the public how safe veal was, 26 of my 71 veal calf samples tested positive for clenbuterol. The Dutch chemists were startled to have detected more positives in my small sampling than they had in years of testing tens of thousands of Dutch calves.
p. 283-293 [A prescient look at Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP), the program that turns over regulation to the plants themselves. Plant workers now, with no whistleblower protection at all, are replacing federal workers on the line]. Could the meat industry finally be trusted with corporate self-inspection? I headed back to GAP one last time. Their whistleblower files documented the types of products some of the nation's largest meat and poultry plants had tried to slip into human food channels in 1995 and 1996: red meat animals and poultry that were dead on arrival were hidden from inspectors and hung up to be butchered. … Severed heads from cancer eye cattle were switched to smaller carcasses before inspection so less meat would be condemned. … Up to 25 percent of slaughtered chicken on the inspection line was covered with feces, bile, and ingesta. … In one enforcement action at a single facility, inspectors retained six tons of ground pork with rust which was bound for a school lunch program in Indiana, 14,000 pounds of chicken speckled with metal flakes, 5,000 pounds of rancid chicken necks, and 721 pounds of green chicken that made employees gag from the smell.