Tag Archives: meat inspectors

New Slaughterhouse rules make things worse

SlaughterhouseJust when we thought the slaughterhouses couldn’t get any worse for workers, consumers and animals alike, new rules are coming out of Washington DC that will make the whole situation worse than ever.

Under the “Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection” rule, a processing line could run at 170 carcasses per minute, and only one inspector- employed by the company that owns the processing plant- would be required to be on duty.  The new rules do not even mandate training for these company inspectors, whereas USDA inspectors undergo extensive training to allow them to fulfill these tasks under the current inspection system.

“These rules essentially privatize poultry inspection, and pave the way for others in the meat industry to police themselves,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch.

With most meat inspectors replaced by untrained slaughterhouse employees, and the kill rate increased to almost 3 chickens a second, it is virtually impossible to do any reliable testing.

The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service says that this proposed rule would provide the framework for action to provide public health-based inspection in all establishments that slaughter amenable poultry species,” according to the rule’s official summary. However, reduced inspections make contamination with disease-causing bacteria all the more likely.

With the kill rate higher, worker stress is likely to get worse. Working in a slaughterhouse is already one of the most dangerous and stressful jobs in the country, as we’ve explained in a previous posting.

Last but surely not least, a higher kill rate is very likely to make matters even worse for the chickens. Many people are surprised to learn that unlike the very minimal legal protection that cows have, chickens have no laws to prevent cruelty at all. As the saying goes, if slaughterhouses had glass walls we’d all be vegetarians!

The situation is so bad that 68 Members of Congress have signed and sent a letter sent to the USDA demanding rules that meaningfully protect all involved.  The letter urges the USDA to “withdraw the proposed rule until the agency has thoroughly addressed its impact on the public, workers, and animals and adherence to good commercial practices.”

We can only hope that the USDA reconsiders the new rules. In the meantime there’s something you can do. Year after year the slaughterhouses continue to get worse and worse. The best solution to this problem is the vegetarian solution. By following a healthy diet composed of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans and other legumes and nuts, you’ll be reducing the demand for chickens until, someday, there won’t be a need for any of them to be killed.

Out of Sight Slaughter

Caged chickensOne of the most powerful motivations to become a vegetarian, for people sensitive to the plight of farm animals, is the harsh conditions on what are known as factory farms. For instance, on these farms chickens are routinely confined to battery cages so tightly they can’t even turn around, and pigs are immobilized in gestational crates for months on end. However, the suffering in the slaughterhouses, where numerous abuses and atrocities take place, in some ways is even worse than on the factory farm.

As the old saying goes, “if slaughterhouses had glass walls, we‘d all be vegetarians”. Few people have actually seen a factory farm or the inside of a slaughterhouse themselves. To be aware of these conditions, we have to rely on a combination of photographic documentations by journalists and activists, and reports by government inspectors.

Unfortunately, we’re now starting to lose both. A number of states have enacted so-called ag-gag laws.  These prohibit the videotaping of “animal enterprises,” which includes both farm and slaughterhouses.  The other problem is that now government inspections are being ignored. While the ag-gag laws have been one obstacle to “seeing” what’s really going on, we would like to highlight the lack of government inspection and enforcement.

A federal investigation released last month shows that many animals still suffer needlessly in slaughterhouses. The federal audit found that meat inspectors unevenly enforce humane-slaughter rules, or don’t enforce them at all. That’s because their bosses won’t support them, two whistle-blowing meat inspectors recently told The Kansas City Star. For instance, after federal meat inspector Jim Schrier documented problems late last year at a Tyson pork plant in Columbus Junction, Iowa, he said he was transferred to another plant miles from his home.

Even efforts by the government’s “humane handling ombudsman,” hired last year to improve enforcement, reportedly were ignored in one recent case. Kansas-based meat inspector Judy Kachanes, a 26-year veteran of the agency, said she contacted the ombudsman, Mark Crowe, after her bosses failed to take action on her complaints about humane-slaughter violations at a small meat plant in McPherson, Kan. No action was ever taken, and Kachanes has since been reassigned.

Temple Grandin, a meat industry consultant and a widely acknowledged expert on the humane treatment of animals, agrees there are still problems. Inconsistent enforcement and vague regulations mean some plants get away with “really mistreating animals and doing bad stuff,” she said.

Humane Society President, Wayne Pacelle, said these cases show that the Agriculture Department has bent to the will of the meat industry. “USDA has historically been more a protector of the meat industry than a serious-minded enforcer of the laws,” Pacelle said.

Consequently the inspectors, and there are far two few of them, can’t effectively report what they see, and so the public is unaware of what’s really going on in the nation’s slaughterhouses. It’s slaughter out of sight, which is exactly what the meat industry is depending on.

With an increasing number of ag-gag laws being enacted on the state level, and inspectors being ignored on the federal level, perhaps now more than ever, a vegetarian diet is the best way to prevent animal abuse.