Manataka® American Indian Council
Hidden Crimes, Voiceless Victims:
Inside Factory Farming and Slaughterhouses
by Kim Summer Moon Wilson
It seems that since the 1980s, there are more salmonella and E. coli outbreaks, particularly the nasty 0157:H7 bacteria that has sickened and killed both adults and children.
As I write this, Whole Foods has
announced a voluntary recall of beef processed at the Nebraska Beef meatpacking
plant. This surprised me, as I thought the Whole Foods Company was wholesome,
organic, and safe to purchase from -- not just another corporation that buys
from industrial slaughterhouses that treats animals as commodities "per head"
like the other slaughterhouses nationwide. But, sadly, it appears that even
Whole Foods operates this way. I looked up Nebraska Beef and they appear to me
as Perdue, Tyson, Hatfield, and all the other meat, poultry, pork, and other
food processors do - animals are food and food alone, a commodity to be
slaughtered, processed, and sold. All that matters is how much money they can
get "per head."
This has given rise to conditions seen on factory farms that now flourish across the country. If you visit the websites listed below, you can find articles and undercover video footage of what happens both on factory farms and slaughterhouses.
Humane Farming Association http://www.hfa.org
Humane Society of the United States http://www.hsus.org
Farm Sanctuary http://www.farmsanctuary.org/issues/factoryfarming/
Farmed Animal Watch http://www.farmedanimal.net
I warn you these articles and
videos are not for those with weak stomachs.
Some readers may have seen footage on national television in February 2008 of Westland/Hallmark meatpacking plant of an injured cow being dragged by chains, pushed with a forklift, and forced to stand for inspection before being slaughtered.
The video was shot by a worker with
the Humane Society of the United States
http://www.hsus.org/farm/multimedia/ It is painful to watch, but
it gained national attention, and the slaughterhouse was closed for violating
animal cruelty laws. This was also a catalyst in California Governor
Schwarzeneggar's signing of a bill to keep disabled and sick animals out of the
People do not realize, and maybe do not want to know, that these bits of undercover video footage actually show "business as usual" on factory farms and slaughterhouses.
The slaughterhouses are especially difficult to document because management is often told when the inspectors are coming and "clean up" before their arrival, and there are not enough inspectors to visit all the plants. The inspectors are often not given access to the "kill floors" where the slaughtering happens, according to Gail Eisnitz in her 1997 book, "Slaughterhouse," which documented the process and politics of the slaughterhouse industry.
According to my telephone
conversation with Gail in June 2008, I asked about conditions in
slaughterhouses that she described in her book. She said that from their
investigative work at the Humane Farming Association, where she is Chief
Investigator - "nothing much has changed" at slaughterhouses since she wrote
At this pig factory farm, these two young pigs died before reaching six months of age, when they would normally be slaughtered. They slaughter babies for human food. They leave these dead pigs in plain sight of the other pigs increasing their stress. http://www.all-creatures.org
Factory farms have overcrowded, unsanitary conditions which cause disease, fighting, and cannibalism among animals. Overcrowding also requires heavy use of antibiotics in the feed to prevent diseases from festering and spreading among the herds. Growth hormones are used to make the herds reach slaughter weight faster - faster growing herd, faster slaughter, more money.
According to a report from the Seattle Times ("Report urges huge changes to factory farming practices" April 30, 2008), the widespread use of antibiotics in factory farm animals breeds drug-resistant bacteria which then spreads to humans, making it difficult to treat people with those same antibiotics because the bacteria are now resistant to the antibiotics.
Overcrowded pigs will often cannibalize each other, especially if one pig has an open sore or is weaker than the others and are fighting over food. A report from the Humane Farming Association documents horrifying conditions at a pig farm in South Dakota, where pigs literally ate each other to death, with thousands of pigs crammed into barns and swimming in their own raw sewage.
Visit this video gallery at HFA's
website for documentation on Rosebud's report and many other reports on factory
farms and slaughterhouses:
According to the Humane Slaughtering Act of 1978, slaughterhouse animals are supposed to be stunned "insensible to pain" with a captive bolt gun - but often the gun is not properly charged or the stunner misses the mark, or the animal is too big and strong for the stun gun to work properly. Sometimes animals go through the slaughter process - sticking, skinning, dismembering, eviscerating - alive, conscious, and kicking. This is dangerous for the workers, who suffer frequent injuries and have been killed on the job.
This causes enormous suffering for the animal who endures a slow, excruciating death. Depending on the slaughterhouse and the line speed, the process can take from 8 to 20 minutes - if you're being stuck, skinned, dismembered, and eviscerated while fully conscious, any amount of time is an eternity. This is true for cows and pigs, sometimes for other animals also.
Pigs are also sometimes killed by a
method known as "PACing," or "Pound Against Concrete," if they will not
voluntarily come off a truck or out of a crate. Or a pig might be beaten to
death with a lead pipe, rebar or a hammer if they're too big to PAC. ("From
Farm to Fork" presentation by Gail Eisnitz, visit
Turkey - Free Range Myth - Thousands of so-called free-range turkeys are raised in a single 'grow-out shed, forced to stand on fecal waste and breathe in ammonia fumes.
All that matters is getting the
animals to slaughter - the more "head," the more profit is made. The big
slaughterhouses process several hundred to a thousand or more "head" each day.
As they say in the industry, they don't stop the line for anyone or anything. A
worker is injured, she or he works through it, or they are replaced and lose
their job. There is always someone who needs the job more. The worker has no
rights, no voice, no recourse -- neither does the animal. The workers are often
very poor, uneducated, illegal immigrants, migrant workers, or in bad
situations. They're willing to do anything to keep their job, even brutalizing
the animals they slaughter. During the slaughtering process, blood, feces , raw
tissue matter and other contaminants are sprayed everywhere. This is how
contamination happens - and this is also why raw meat, poultry and pork packages
come with washing and safe handling instructions. The speed of the conveyor
line does not allow for proper sanitation procedures in a slaughterhouse. It is
a situation waiting for disasters.
A Good Alternative to Slaughterhouse Meat
The typical American diet is based on meat and poultry - it is the cornerstone of most meals. You can still eat beef, pork and chicken, but you have to know where to find safer sources.
Open a new browser window, go to http://www.google.com, and type in your city or town name with "farmers markets." For instance, I live in Philadelphia, so I typed "Philadelphia farmers markets." I found a bunch of listings - my city has a few farmers markets, urban co-ops, and local farms.
Other cities have done this in response to a growing demand for safer food and locally raised animals. In my neighborhood, we have the Dutch Country Farmers Market, from the Lancaster County Pennsylvania Dutch farms.
On small family-owned farms,
animals are free-range, grass-fed, and raised in their natural environment with
their normal behaviors , without chemicals, hormones, antibiotics and artificial
feed that is force-fed to their factory-farm counterparts that are shipped to
slaughter before their time. Local farm animals also tend to be picked
individually for slaughter, and slaughtered the old-fashioned way - not at a
warehouse, but at the hands of those who raised them. If you read magazines like
"Backwoods Home," you'll have seen articles giving instructions on the time of
year, proper procedures and how to know when an animal is ready for slaughter.
Beware - Be Aware
This pig suffers from an untreated rupture. Money is the primary concern to factory farms and individual medical care costs more than the pig is worth, so conditions go untreated. The skinniness of the pig indicates his or her suffering. http://www.all-creatures.org
Any meat, poultry or pork you buy
in a supermarket or wholesale club -- whether store or name brand -- probably
comes from a factory farm. I asked about this at Super Fresh (my local
supermarket). They answered my question honestly, "They pretty much all come
from factory farms, you can't get away from that." When in doubt - ask where
the meat comes from.
You don't have to eat meat to be healthy. I've listed a few websites at the end of this article that can help you reduce your consumption of meat. It's easier than you think, cheaper than a meat-based diet, better for the environment, and much healthier. Even reducing your meat consumption one meal at a time can make a difference.
One estimate states that we slaughter 10 billion animals each year for food. 10 billion animals a year, with all the tons of animal waste -- that's more animals each year than there are humans living on Earth. Yet there is rampant world hunger. Imagine that -- so many animals dying to feed us, and yet so many people are still hungry. (For more statistics:
It is impossible in one article to give all the information on this subject. In future articles, I plan to discuss organic farming, vegetable gardening, and other topics. Here are more resources where you can learn more about the topics discussed in this article:
"Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser (2001) - the dark side of the fast food industry (This is available through the public library- if it is not available in your local library, you can order it online through the public library and have it sent to your local library for free.)
"Slaughterhouse" by Gail Eisnitz (1997 and revised editions) - inside the slaughterhouse industry (unfortunately this is not available through the public library, but it is available through HFA's website and http://www.Amazon.com
"Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats" by Sally Fallon - this book gives lots of good information on finding safer sources of meat and poultry from local farms and butchers. Lots of scientific data and research with historical anecdotes, and great nutritional information in general.
You can browse the many links that are listed at the websites I referenced in this article for more information, and here are additional websites of interest:
Animal Welfare Institute: http://www.awionline.org
Farm Animal Watch: http://www.farmedanimal.net
Farm Animal Sanctuary: http://www.farmanimalsanctuary.com
Compassionate Cooks: http://www.compassionatecooks.com
DO NOT BUY OR EAT ANYMORE FACTORY FARM MEAT!
Summer Moon Wilson:
My work: http://kimwilsondesigns.webs.com
Member: Manataka American Indian Council
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