World Farm Animals Day is supported by people of conscience, regardless of their personal dietary choices, who are outraged by the abysmal treatment of animals raised for food. Nine out of ten people who still eat animals believe that they should be treated humanely.
Each year, nearly 50 billion cows, pigs, chickens, and other innocent, feeling animals are caged, crowded, deprived, drugged, mutilated, and manhandled in the world's factory farms and slaughterhouses. In the US alone, 10 billion land animals are abused and slaughtered.
"Veal" calves are torn from their mothers at birth, chained by the neck for 16 weeks in tiny, filthy wooden crates, and force-fed an anemia-inducing liquid formula. They are deprived of their natural diet--including water, roughage, and iron--as well as exercise, fresh air, sunshine, and their mother's love.
Meanwhile, their mothers (dairy cows) suffer horribly as they are pumped full of growth hormones and perpetually impregnated for their milk. When their production slumps, they are slaughtered.
Breeding sows are kept pregnant for three years in metal "gestation crates," enclosures so small the sows cannot even turn around. Their piglets are torn away after only two weeks so the sows can again be impregnated.
Laying hens are crammed 5-7 birds into wire-mesh "battery cages" the size of a folded newspaper, which cut their feet and tear at their feathers. They are frequently starved for up to 14 days to boost egg production, a process known as forced molting. Upon hatching, male chicks are placed in garbage bags, where they suffocate slowly or are crushed under the weight of their brothers.
Animals are transported to slaughter in crowded trucks with no food, water, or protection against weather extremes. Many die in transit. Sick and injured animals, called "downers," are dragged with chains to the killing floor.
According to a 10-year investigation based on interviews with slaughterhouse workers and USDA inspectors, many animals actually survive the slaughter process. Many -- alive and conscious -- are skinned, dismembered, gutted, scalded, and drowned in their own blood.
Additional details and documentation are provided under internet resources.Remedial Legislation
State and federal regulations to protect farmed animals are nonexistent or unenforced. More than half of the states have enacted legislation exempting factory farms from anti-cruelty statutes. The others just ignore them.
The 1958 Federal Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, expanded in 1978, has never been funded or enforced. USDA inspectors who have complained about slaughterhouse atrocities have been reprimanded or fired.
Congress has yet to pass a bill requiring euthanasia of downed animals. Reacting to the public's concern about Mad Cow disease, the USDA imposed guidelines to keep downers out of the human food supply. However, these guidelines are self-imposed; they can be reversed at any time and do not carry the weight of law.
Farmed animals fare somewhat better in Western Europe. Germany amended its national constitution to protect "the natural foundations of life" for animals as well as people, and Switzerland adopted a constitutional amendment acknowledging animals as "beings" rather than things.
Sow gestation crates have been banned in the United Kingdom and are being phased out in the European Union and New Zealand. Florida recently passed a constitutional amendment banning the use of gestation crates. Norway is banning the castration of pigs.
Battery cages were banned in Switzerland over ten years ago. Germany is phasing them out by 2007, and the European Union by 2012.
I hear people say the chickens are fed with the poops tender and tastier. Next time you bite for the piece, you know what it's fed for the cheap nutrition.
Pesticide use on egg farms
Pesticide use on egg farms is another problem. The chemicals are applied to the chicken houses, litter, manure pits, feed and even hens. Not only are some of these chemicals toxic to poultry, they are also harmful to wildlife and humans when they end up in nearby streams. Animal waste from the farms can also land in waterways, and fumes from the waste pollute the air.
It's a bad situation from every angle, and government has barely addressed it. As a consumer, however, you can get the ball rolling by showing your preferences for humanely, sustainably produced eggs. The trick is recognizing which those are. Ignore the "Animal Care Certified" label, which is an industry designation that 85 percent of eggs now bear. While it does confirm that the producer followed a set of standards, those standards hardly qualify as humane.
But labels aren't everything. At the farmer's market, you may find small organic farmers who can't spare funds for certification, but are happy to have you visit their farms to see their well-cared-for, pasture-fed hens. That's where I got my last half-dozen eggs. They were fresh-laid from a Chilean breed of chicken, with beautiful blue shells. The flavor -- not incidentally -- was amazing.
ECO-CLAIMS ABOUND -- BUT WHAT DO THEY MEAN?
The USDA regulates the meaning of these terms:
• Organic - animals were raised without antibiotics, hormones or pesticides; received 100 percent organic food; and had access to the outdoors.
• Free range and free roaming - animals had access to the outdoors.
• Natural - no artificial ingredients or coloring were added and processing was minimal.
• No hormones - no hormones were used on the hens, which is an illegal practice in any case.
• No antibiotics - no antibiotics were used.
Other terms, such as "cage-free" and "vegetarian fed," are unregulated and therefore unverifiable -- i.e., they may or may not be true.
Certified Raised & Handled is a private label administered by the non-profit group Humane Farm Animal Care. A farm seeking the label must pass annual inspections proving that it meets the group's stringent animal care standards. The USDA verifies the inspection process.
Industrial society has tended to see forests as free sources of valuable materials or as needless woods, occupying land and getting 'in the way' of development. As a result of these pressures, every second the planet loses another two football fields of its precious rainforest cloak.
Old growth forests are cleared for 'development,' agriculture, cattle-grazing and plantations among other reasons. [more]
Cattle ranching is a major cause of rainforest destruction in Central and South America. Ranchers slash and burn rainforests to grow grass pasture for cattle. Once the cattle have grazed sufficiently, they are slaughtered and exported to industrialized countries, including the United States, to be made into fast food hamburgers and frozen meat products. It has been estimated that for every quarter pound hamburger made from rainforest cattle, fifty-five square feet of rainforest was cleared—an area equal to the size of a small kitchen. [more]Cattle Ranching Topics:
- Costa Rica Beef Exports - Case study from American University's Trade and Environment Database (TED).
- Some Costa Rican Ranchers Are Thinking Green - Article on efforts of Costa Rican ranchers to make cattle ranching more 'sustainable.'
- The Law, Politics, and Economics of Amazonian Deforestation - Paper examines how government policy in Amazonian countries encourages cattle ranching ending in deforestation.
COWS DON'T WANT TO DIE!
Like all animals, cows value their lives and don’t want to die. Stories abound of cows who have gone to extraordinary lengths to fight for their lives.
A cow named Suzie was about to be loaded on a freighter bound for Venezuela when she turned around, ran back down the gangplank, and leaped into the river. Even though she was pregnant, or perhaps because she was pregnant, she managed to swim all the way across the river, eluding capture for several days. (Believe it or not, cows actually love swimming!) She was rescued by PETA and sent to a sanctuary for farmed animals.
When workers at a slaughterhouse in Massachusetts went on break, Emily the cow made a break of her own. She took a tremendous leap over a five-foot gate and escaped into the woods, surviving for several weeks in New England’s snowiest winter in a decade, cleverly refusing to touch the hay put out to lure her back to the slaughterhouse. When she was eventually caught by the owners of a nearby sanctuary, public outcry demanded that the slaughterhouse allow the sanctuary to buy her for one dollar. Emily lived out her life happily in Massachusetts, a testament to the fact that eating meat means eating animals who don’t want to die.
In 2004, East Bay Animal Advocates conducted an investigative rescue at a free-range turkey farm in Northern California. Over the course of the investigation, eleven turkeys were rescued. The following images reveal the conditions on a free-range farm.
In 2004, East Bay Animal Advocates conducted an investigative rescue at a free-range turkey farm in Northern California. Over the course of the investigation, eleven turkeys were rescued. The following images reveal the conditions on a free-range farm.
Turkeys: Factory-Farmed Torture on the Holiday Table
Ben Franklin called the turkey “a bird of courage” and “a true original native of America.”(1) He had tremendous respect for their resourcefulness, agility, and beauty and thought that the turkey should be the national bird of the U.S. He was referring to wild turkeys, who can fly at speeds of up to 55 miles per hour, run at speeds of up to 25 miles per hour, and live for around 10 years.(2,3)
A British study found that turkeys showed a preference for different kinds of music and sounds, and a poultry scientist said, “If you throw an apple to a group of turkeys, they’ll play with it together.”(4,5) Some turkey farmers admit that the birds show “signs of personality.”(6) Hunters are advised that wild turkeys are “wary” and will “test your wits as they are rarely tested in modern life.”(7) The millions of turkeys who end up on American dinner plates are genetically manipulated animals who have brief, difficult lives in factory farms that are far removed from the open spaces that their wild cousins enjoy.
Life on Factory Farms Is Miserable
More than 40 million turkeys are killed each year at Thanksgiving, more than 20 million are slaughtered at Christmas, and another 19 million die for Easter dinners.(8) Before ending up as holiday centerpieces, these gentle birds spend five to six months on factory farms where thousands of them are packed into dark sheds with no more than 3.5 square feet of space per bird.(9) To keep the overcrowded birds from scratching and pecking each other to death, workers cut off portions of the birds’ toes and upper beaks with hot blades and de-snood the males (the snood is the flap of skin that runs from the beak to the chest).(10) No pain relievers are used during any of these procedures.
Genetic manipulation and antibiotics enable farmers to produce heavily muscled birds who can weigh 35 pounds in as little as five months, and “their internal organs are noticeably crammed together in the little bit of space remaining for the body cavity,” according to The Washington Post.(11) An industry magazine said, “[T]urkey breeders have created birds with huge, unnatural, outsized breasts, since white breast meat is where the money is.”(12) Another turkey breeder complained that birds “are bred to grow fast just to live to 16 weeks [and then] they die,” usually from organ failure, and some suffer from broken legs because their bones are not able to support their weight.(13) A 12-year study of turkey farmers in Iowa (one of the nation’s top turkey-producing states) revealed that leg problems and aneurysms were among the top three health problems in turkey flocks.(14) Factory-farmed turkeys are so large that they cannot even perform normal reproductive behaviors, so all turkeys raised for food are the products of artificial insemination.(15)
Millions of turkeys don’t even make it past the first few weeks before succumbing to “starve-out,” a stress-induced condition that causes young birds to simply stop eating.(16) Catching and transportation are particularly stressful processes for birds, and yet they are repeatedly moved during their short lives—from hatchery to the brooding area to the growing area and finally to the slaughterhouse.(17)
At the slaughterhouse, turkeys are hung upside-down by their weak and crippled legs before their heads are dragged through an electrified “stunning tank,” which immobilizes them but does not kill them. Many birds dodge the tank and, therefore, are fully conscious when their throats are slit. If the knife fails to properly slit the birds’ throats, they are scalded alive in the tank of hot water used for feather removal.
Investigation Reveals Extreme Cruelty
A PETA investigation of Minnesota-based Crestview Farm revealed that the manager of the farm repeatedly used a metal pipe to bludgeon 12-week-old turkeys who were lame, injured, ill, or otherwise unsuitable for slaughter and consumption. The injured birds were thrown onto piles of other dead and dying birds then tossed into a wheelbarrow for disposal. Birds who were overlooked were kicked or beaten with pliers or had their necks wrung—all in full view of other terrified birds. When the Minnesota Turkey Growers came to the defense of the farmer, the local district attorney refused to prosecute.
More details and photos from this case are available at www.PETA.org..
Turkey Is Not a Health Food
Turkey flesh is completely devoid of fiber and carbohydrates and is loaded with even more fat and cholesterol than many cuts of beef. A turkey’s leg contains about 63 milligrams of cholesterol, and 42 percent of its calories are derived from fat.(18)
USDA inspection reports reveal that an average of one in every eight Thanksgiving turkeys is infected with salmonella, a foodborne illness that sickens more than a million people a year and kills 500.(19)
What You Can Do
Spread some holiday joy to turkeys by sparing their lives. Look in supermarkets and health-food stores or on the Internet for Tofurky, Unturkey, Tofu Turkey, Native Foods’ Holiday Wellington, and other turkey alternatives, which are widely available. For more information on vegetarian holiday meals, call PETA toll-free at 1-888-VEG-FOOD or visit GoVeg.com.
When they are separated from their families, friends, or human companions, cows grieve over the loss. Researchers report that cows become visibly distressed after even a brief separation. The mother-calf bond is particularly strong, and there are countless reports of mother cows who continue to frantically call and search for their babies after the calves have been taken away and sold to veal farms.
Author Oliver Sacks, M.D., wrote of a visit that he and cattle expert Dr. Temple Grandin made to a dairy farm and of the great tumult of bellowing that they heard when they arrived: “‘They must have separated the calves from the cows this morning,’ Temple said, and, indeed, this was what had happened. We saw one cow outside the stockade, roaming, looking for her calf, and bellowing. ‘That’s not a happy cow,’ Temple said. ‘That’s one sad, unhappy, upset cow. She wants her baby. Bellowing for it, hunting for it. She’ll forget for a while, then start again. It’s like grieving, mourning—not much written about it. People don’t like to allow them thoughts or feelings.’”
John Avizienius, the senior scientific officer in the Farm Animals Department of the RSPCA in Britain, says that he “remembers one particular cow who appeared to be deeply affected by the separation from her calf for a period of at least six weeks. When the calf was first removed, she was in acute grief; she stood outside the pen where she had last seen her calf and bellowed for her offspring for hours. She would only move when forced to do so. Even after six weeks, the mother would gaze at the pen where she last saw her calf and sometimes wait momentarily outside of the pen. It was almost as if her spirit had been broken and all she could do was to make token gestures to see if her calf would still be there.”
The truck carrying this cow was unloaded at Walton Stockyards in Kentucky on a September morning. After the other animals were removed from the truck, she was left behind, unable to move. The stockyard workers beat and kicked her in the face, ribs and back. They used the customary electric prods in her ear to try to get her out of the truck, but still she did not move. The workers then tied a rope around her neck, tied the other end to a post in the ground, and drove the truck away. The cow was dragged along the floor of the truck and fell to the ground, landing with both hind legs and her pelvis broken. She remained in this state until 7:30 that evening.
The cow lay in the hot sun crying out for the first three hours. Periodically, when she urinated or defecated, she used her front legs to drag herself along the gravel roadway to a clean spot. She also tried to crawl to a shaded area but could not move far enough. Altogether she managed to crawl a painful 13-14 yards. The stockyard employees would not allow her any drinking water; the only drinking water she received was given to her by Jessie Pierce, a local animal rights activist, who had been contacted by a woman who witnessed the incident. Jessie arrived at noon. After receiving no cooperation from stockyard workers, she called the Kenton County police. A police officer arrived but was instructed by his superiors to do nothing; he left at 1 p.m.
The stockyard operator informed Jessie at 1 p.m. that he had obtained permission from the insurance company to kill the cow but would not do so until Jessie left. Although doubtful that he would keep his word, Jessie left at 3 p.m. She returned at 4:30 p.m. and found the stockyard deserted. Three dogs were attacking the cow, who was still alive. She had suffered a number of bite wounds, and her drinking water had been removed. Jessie contacted the Kentucky State Police. Four officers arrived at about 5:30 p.m. State trooper Jan Wuchner wanted to shoot the cow but was told that a veterinarian should kill her. The two veterinarians at the facility would not euthanize the cow, claiming that, in order to preserve the value of the meat, she could not be destroyed. The butcher eventually arrived at 7:30 p.m. and did shoot the cow. Her body was purchased for $307.50. (Usually animals who are bruised or crippled or who are found dead are considered unfit for human consumption and are used for pet food.)
When the stockyard operator was questioned earlier in the day by a reporter from The Kentucky Post, he stated, "We didn't do a damned thing to it," and referred to the attention given the cow by humane workers and police as "bullcrap." He laughed throughout the questioning, saying he found nothing wrong with the way the incident was handled.
This is not an isolated case. It is so common that animals in this condition are known in the meat industry as "downers." After PETA brought much-needed attention to this issue, the Kenton County Police Department adopted a policy requiring that all downed animals be immediately euthanized, whether they are on the farm, in transit, or at the slaughterhouse. Sadly, other law-enforcement agencies don't have such policies and downed animals continue to suffer everywhere. It is up to the public to demand change, and it is up to consumers to refuse to purchase the products of this miserable industry.
1)Benjamin Franklin, “To Mrs. Sarah Bache,” 26 Jan. 1784, The Writings of Benjamin Franklin, ed. Albert Henry Smyth, New York: The Macmillan Company, 1905-1907.
2)National Wild Turkey Federation, “All About Turkeys: Wild Turkey Facts,” Nov. 2003.
3)Michael Seamster, “The Wild Turkey in North Carolina,” North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, Sep. 1989.
4)Andrea Gerlin, “Researchers Examine Music’s Impact on Turkeys,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, 26 Nov. 2003.
5)Aaron Hougham, “Turkeys—Not as Dumb as You Think,” The Daily Barometer, 26 Nov. 2003.
6)Arthur Hirsch, “Home Before the Holidays. At Springfield Farm in Sparks, Turkeys Roam Free Before Turning up on the Thanksgiving Table,” The Baltimore Sun, 26 Nov. 2003.
7)“Basics of Turkey Behavior,” The Remington Guide to Turkey Hunting, Remington Arms Company, 2003.
8)“Minnesota Leads Nation in Turkey Production,” Paynesville Press, 21 Nov. 2001.
9)John C. Voris et al., Turkey Care Practices, University of California, Davis, 1998.
10)Jodie Karrow and Dr. Ian Duncan, “Starve-Out in Turkey Poults,” University of Guelph, Dec. 1999.
11)Rick Weiss, “Techno Turkeys: The Modern Holiday Bird Is a Marvel of Yankee Ingenuity,” The Washington Post, 12 Nov. 1997.
12)Steve Bjerklie, “Perspective by Editor of Meat Processing North American Edition,” MeatNews.com, 2 Dec. 2003.
13)Jan Falstad, “Plucked by the Big Boys: No Fresh Turkeys From Ballentine Turkey Farm This Season,” Billings Gazette, 2 Nov. 2003.
14)William J. Owings, “Turkey Health Problems. A Summary of Twelve Years of Iowa Grower Surveys,” Iowa State University Extension, Sep. 1995.
16)University of Guelph, “Farm Animal Welfare Research,” 1998-2000.
17)Voris et al.
18)USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, “Turkey, Young Tom, Leg, Meat and Skin, Cooked, Roasted,” Jul. 2003.
19)Todd Zwillich, “Consumer Group: 13% of U.S. Turkeys Carry Salmonella,” Reuters Health, 19 Nov. 2001.
You haven't gotten this book yet. Here are some for you to review.
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. 38 E. coli 0157:H7, a once-rare bacterium that wasn't even identified until 1982, has since left a trail of sickness and death across the United States. Pathogens like E.coli and salmonella, which live in the intestinal tracts of livestock and poultry, contaminate meat during sloppy high-speed slaughter and processing operations.
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 pops."
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.
Something's rotten and it's not just the meat heading for your supermarket! A spellbinding and scary tale of corruption, daring whistleblowers, animal detectives, and bureaucrats.
Ingrid Newkirk, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
Slaughterhouse is an engaging true-life detective story. ... A scathing broadside about exactly what the animals on our dinner plate went through to get there.
Bill Wallace, San Francisco Chronicle
The Jungle has born a daughter. It is tireless and tenacious investigative journalist Gail Eisnitz' recent tome Slaughterhouse. … Whether readers will actually be able to take the reins from the all-powerful USDA and meat processors remains to be seen. But Eisnitz has taken many trips to hell and back in the hopes that they will.
Washington Post reporter Kari Lydersen, Chicago Ink
Slaughterhouse, a fast-moving, gripping, and gritty account that speaks volumes of the tenacity and investigative savvy of author Gail Eisnitz, may do for factory-farmed animals what horror tales of factory farming alone could not.
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)
Slaughterhouse is an intensely researched exposé written by a woman who, virtually single-handedly, uncovered the de facto repeal of our country's Humane Slaughter Act.
Christine Stevens, Animal Welfare Institute
I have just read Slaughterhouse at one sitting … Gail Eisnitz has penetrated the veil that hangs over meat production, and what she has found will shock every reader … No longer can anyone believe that in the United States there is adequate inspection and control of slaughterhouses. As Eisnitz convincingly shows, the meat industry is indifferent to animal suffering, exploitative of its workers, and liable to produce a product that is riddled with bacteria. Whether you eat meat or not -- if you care about humans or animals -- this book is a must-read.
Dr. Peter Singer, Princeton University
Not since Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle has a book appeared that takes such a thought-provoking look at how animals used as food are slaughtered. Gail Eisnitz exposes the inhumane treatment of farm animals as they make their final journey and the horrific conditions under which slaughterhouse workers must perform their jobs. This book is a must-read.
Humane Society of the United States (HSU
Slaughterhouse will make you aware. It will wake you up. It will change your life.
John Robbins, Founder of EarthSave, International
Reviews of Slaughterhouse
Karen Davis, Ph.D., United Poultry Concerns
I thought I was going to have a hard time reading Gail Eisnitz' book Slaughterhouse, but as soon as I started reading, I was drawn into this "shocking story of greed, neglect, and inhumane treatment inside the U.S. meat industry." Eisnitz really does tell a story. The reader is plunged into a world it is hard to believe exists, unless, like Eisnitz, we choose to enter this terrible place, or we are forced, or feel forced, to be there.
The book starts out like a novel or a movie that chills your heart in the very first scene. You enter the spiritual universe of In Cold Blood and Deliverance.
Here we have it: a vulnerable woman in a world of violent men. A savvy woman courting danger, terrified, running for her life, keeping her wits, a smart chick. "Carol Taylor" is a fake name--the undercover identity of "I, Gail Eisnitz," who is boldly sneaking around in Florida chasing down a notorious animal abuser for arrest. Her search leads her to the slaughterhouse.
Years ago, when I first started learning about the things humans do to animals on farms and in laboratories, wondering if I could endure this information, Peter Singer answered my question. In Animal Liberation, he said that if the animals must go through this in reality, the least we can do is to go through it in our minds.
The Ninth Circle of Hell in Slaughterhouse is the kill floor. Consider a horse who doesn't want to die.
"'You can't spend 15 or 20 minutes on one horse. You have to do whatever you can to get him in that box to get him skinned--fast. You can't let one horse stop you from making money.'
(Later) "'What about the inspector?' I asked. 'Does he ever see any of this?'
"'How do you know? You've seen him?'
"'We all on the kill floor together,' he said, 'we all watching this. Sometimes he'd complain about it. But you've got a lot of guys there, new, inexperienced, and they think it's a game.'"
Pick almost any place in Slaughterhouse, and you've got testimony, an eyewitness who is soaked in blood reciting the facts, reenacting the daily ritual. Eisnitz documents alcoholism, anger, misery, murder, fear, family violence, callousness, sadism, compassion, jail time, prison sentences--the slaughterhouse milieu, including the "good times." One of the book's benefits is the range of attitudes and self-revelations elicited by Eisnitz. It reminds me of what a student of mine once said about an essay we were reading: "The author said that he wasn't commenting, merely stating facts. However, his facts were full of comments."
For me, the heart of the book is the interview with Ed Van Winkle, a pig-sticker described by men who have worked with him as "the most ferocious of the stickers." He says, "'The worst thing, worse than the physical danger, is the emotional toll. If you work in that stick pit for any period of time, you develop an attitude that lets you kill things but doesn't let you care. You may look a hog in the eye that's walking around down in the blood pit with you and think, God, that really isn't a bad-looking animal. You may want to pet it. Pigs down on the kill floor have come up and nuzzled me like a puppy. Two minutes later I had to kill them--beat them to death with a pipe. I can't care.'"
The book focuses on mammals, rather than on the birds who make up the 95 percent of animals slaughtered for food. (While 35 million cattle are slaughtered each year in the United States, 35 million chickens are slaughtered every day.) However, Slaughterhouse does provide a lot of information about the poultry industry, as in these comments by inspectors Macias and Carney:
"'Poultry is exempt from coverage under the Humane Slaughter Act, right?' I asked.
"'Correct,' Carney said. 'It's not humanely slaughtered. Because they're going into the scald tanks still alive, breathing and sucking in the water.'
"Macias nodded. 'Most of them are still alive when they go into that tank and they fill their lungs. That's a reason for the high contamination.'
"'The kicker,' Carney said, 'is that, when that chicken is exported to Canada, inspectors have to sign off on an export certificate that says it's been humanely slaughtered. We have no control over how they're slaughtered. None whatsoever.'"
The point is that "laws" or no laws, mammals and birds alike are tortured to death and anything goes in this environment. There's a kind of macabre humor in the way the cast of characters either couldn't care less about, cannot implement, or is not even aware of the federal "humane slaughter" law for livestock. In any case, "violations of the Humane Slaughter Act carry no penalties at all."
In trying to do justice to Slaughterhouse, I find I can't. There is too much packed into it and the book's sensibility must be experienced directly. There is Eisnitz's cancer while she is doing her investigations, her ordeals with the news media, violent sickness and death from food poisoning, information about the Clinton Administration, and information like this: "'Fat reduced beef isn't meat,' he [a former USDA inspector] explained. 'It's fatty tissue, the solid part of fat. It's a gray, ugly mass. It makes you sick to look at it. They form it into patties, color it, freeze it--if you leave it out too long it will start to smell--and then they tell you to cook it.'"
Many animals are skinned alive, including their heads, and rotten chicken flesh is mixed with other meat and sold as baby food. Also, parts of about a hundred individuals are ground up in every hamburger.
Slaughterhouse shows the reader what is happening, without telling us what to do. In a manner akin to the archetype of the Ancient Mariner, Eisnitz has journeyed through hell, "And now I am telling the world." If, vicariously, we could "become" these animals, the workers, and Eisnitz herself, perhaps history would stop repeating itself.
Reviews of Slaughterhouse
Gail Eisnitz offers a nightmare view of the meat industry. Her 10-year investigation of meat packers, the industry's euphemism for slaughterhouses, depicts a world in which cattle are skinned alive and pigs are boiled to death in giant scalding vats. While fully conscious cows dangle by one hind leg from a steel shackle, workers snip off their front legs to prevent them from kicking.
Eisnitz was already an experienced investigator when she received a tip from a former slaughterhouse worker about conditions in a Florida slaughter plant. Scarcely able to believe what she heard, she began to travel around the U.S., at great personal sacrifice, investigating slaughter plants and interviewing scores of workers who shared accounts of the most horrific animal abuse.
According to Eisnitz, who became chief investigator for the Humane Farming Association midway through her research, the trouble begins in the parking lot. Workers describe how "downers," or animals too weak, injured, or sick to move on their own, are dragged and beaten, sometimes to death. There are accounts of animals arriving in sub-freezing conditions who are frozen to the metal bars of the trucks, and of workers using crowbars to pry frozen animals off the truck's metal rails, leaving a chunk of hide behind.
Many of those who can move on their own are shocked with electric prods or beaten mercilessly if they balk at entering the killing line. Here, the first step is the stunner. Cattle are stunned with an air-driven bolt gun applied to the forehead, while pigs are rendered unconscious with an electrical device.
Eisnitz reports that the line speeds are so fast that some conscious animals pass by without being stunned. The result of inadequate stunning and accelerated line speeds is the same: Conscious animals continue down the disassembly line because, writes Eisnitz, nothing stops the line. Time is money.
What follows, conscious or unconscious, is "sticking" (piercing the throat to induce bleeding), skinning, and removing legs. In the case of pigs, they are stuck, bled, and dragged through a tank of scalding water to remove their bristles. Conscious pigs have been boiled to death or drowned.
There is more. The book addresses the tremendous physical and psychological danger to workers. The workers emerge as victims of the system. Eisnitz also deals with the growing epidemic of contaminated meat, suggesting that the industry has the same callous disregard for humans as for animals.
Slaughterhouse is not a survey of slaughter practices across the country, but rather an exposé of abuses that Eisnitz observed or that were reported to her. Thus it is not clear from Slaughterhouse how prevalent the abuses reported are. But Slaughterhouse offers convincing arguments for better supervision of slaughterhouses and stronger enforcement of the Humane Slaughter Act. It also reminds us that the slaughter industry should not police itself.
Eisnitz's exposé is so powerful that we can almost see the bellowing cows and helpless squealing pigs. And we can't help but visualize the children whose lives were cut short because they took a bite out of a tainted hamburger. It has been said that, if most meat-eaters walked through a slaughterhouse, they would quickly become vegetarians. Eisnitz' book is the only tour most readers will ever need. With wide exposure, it could create a new generation of vegetarians.
Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.
Mahatma Gandhi stated, "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated." If this is true, then the horrifying material in Slaughterhouse indicates that we are in for an extremely harsh judgment.
The subtitle for this book is The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U. S. Meat Industry. In this age of hype, one might think that this is an exaggeration, but this summary statement is more than fulfilled by Gail Eisnitz' well-written, powerful description of her more than 10 years of personal investigations of many slaughterhouses throughout the United States and her interviews with slaughterhouse workers and federal investigators who feel coerced into ignoring chronic violations of safety and humane regulations.
Gail Eisnitz is an indefatigable and tenacious investigator who has been investigating animal abuses for many years. Her articles have appeared in several publications, including the New York Times, and she has appeared on Good Morning America and Prime Time Live. Formerly, she worked for the Humane Society of the United States and is presently chief investigator for the Humane Farming Association.
Among the many scandalous facts brought out by this gripping indictment of the meat industry are the following:
• Because stunning devices often don't function properly, some animals run amok in the plants and are kicking and screaming as they are pierced, sometimes kicking the knives back into the faces or bodies of slaughterhouse workers; some animals are skinned or scalded while they are still alive.
• The system places almost as little value on human life as it does on animal life. Pressure to keep the production line moving at all costs takes a terrible toll on slaughterhouse workers. There were many reports of alcoholism, drug use, and abuse of spouses. Many workers became very sadistic, taking out their frustrations by violently beating animals to death.
• Due to excessive production line speeds, the number of crippling repetitive motion disorders in slaughterhouses has increased 1,000-fold in the past 15 years. Workers often have to relieve themselves on the production line because they are given very few breaks to go to the bathroom. The deplorable working conditions result in very rapid worker turnover rates, often as high as 100 percent in a year. Immigrants are especially exploited.
• Deaths from foodborne illnesses have quadrupled in the last 15 years in the United States. One reason is that, increasingly, meat covered with feces, abscesses, tumors, hair, and maggots has moved into the human food system, some plants are infested with cockroaches and rats, and condemned meat is taken out of trash barrels and returned to production lines.
Because of a revolving-door policy between industry and government, there is a cozy relationship between the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the meat industry. Rather than using their authority to see that there is compliance with federal meat safety and humane laws, high-ranking USDA officials, more concerned about agribusiness interests than animal welfare and human health, use their authority to insure maximum production at all costs. Because inspection policies have been developed in collusion with the meat industry, federal food inspectors are often powerless to enforce federal slaughterhouse laws. Also, recent federal legislation has substantially reduced the number of inspectors. Inspectors who try to stop the production line are often reprimanded, demoted, or fired.
Slaughterhouse is an eye-opener that leads readers through the real-life hell that today's slaughterhouses represent, revealing ever-widening circles of cruelty, corruption, and contempt for both animals and people. It can only be hoped that the incredible facts that it reveals will be read by many people, and that it will affect the meat industry at the end of this century as much as Upton Sinclair's classic book, The Jungle, did at the beginning. As the author states at the end of her powerful, shocking book: "Now you know, and you can help make the changes."
Vesanto Melina, M.S., R.D.
Gail Eisnitz has done an excellent job of writing about an extremely challenging topic. It took me a while to gather the courage to read her book, but once I began, I found it compelling. From what I know of the meat-packing industry, situations were described accurately and the book relies on actual accounts from workers at all levels: USDA inspectors, veterinarians, and workers at all stages of the slaughter and packing operations. It was necessary for Ms. Eisnitz to change some names, but, in a great many cases, actual names of people and packing plants were provided.
For me, one realization that emerged from reading the book was an understanding of the sources of Ecoli, and other foodborne illness from beef, pork, and chicken, and the failure of the federal inspection system.
Slaughterhouse addresses worker safety and the immense physical and emotional toll on the workers -- 36 percent incur serious injuries, making their work the most hazardous in America.
Alex Hershaft of FARM recommended the book, "Because the countless animals whose agony the book documents so graphically deserve to have their story told. And because Slaughterhouse is the most powerful argument for meatless eating that I have ever read."
Peter Singer said, "Eisnitz is a brilliant investigator, writes superbly, and has the courage and persistence of someone who knows she is right. No longer can anyone believe that in the United States there is adequate inspection and control of slaughterhouses. As Eisnitz convincingly shows, the meat industry is indifferent to animal suffering, exploitative of its workers, and liable to produce a product that is riddled with dangerous bacteria."
Though this might seem an unusual holiday gift, it is such an important topic that I would like to recommend the book for this purpose. One way it might be handled is to ask people first if they would like a copy. To my surprise, people have said "Yes"!
I also find it's good to have more than one copy on hand; those hesitant to actually own a copy ask to borrow it when they are ready. The information presented is important for people to know and the book was written with care and thoroughness.
Alex Hershaft, Ph.D., President, FARM
In the midst of our high-tech, ostentatious, hedonistic lifestyle, among the dazzling monuments to history, art, religion, and commerce, there are the "black boxes." These are the out-of-the-way compounds where society conducts its dirty business of abusing and killing innocent, feeling beings -- medical laboratories, factory farms, and slaughterhouses.
These are our Dachaus, our Buchenwalds, our Birkenaus. Like the good German citizens, we have a fair idea of what goes on there, but we don't want any reality checks. We rationalize that the killing has to be done and that it's done humanely. We fear that the truth would offend our sensibilities and perhaps force us to do something. It may even change our life.
Slaughterhouse by Gail Eisnitz of the Humane Farming Association is a gut-wrenching, chilling, yet carefully documented, exposé of unspeakable torture and death in America's slaughterhouses. It explodes their popular image of obscure factories that turn dumb "livestock" into sterile, cellophane-wrapped "food" in the meat display case. The testimony of dozens of slaughterhouse workers and USDA inspectors pulls back the curtain on abominable hellholes, where the last minutes in the lives of innocent, feeling, intelligent horses, cows, calves, pigs, and chickens are turned into interminable agony. And, yes, the book may well change your life.
Here are some sample quotes (warning: extremely obscene material follows).
The agony starts when the animals are hauled over long distances under extreme crowding and harsh temperatures. Here is an account from a worker
assigned to unloading pigs: "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 just throw them on the piles of dead ones. They'll die sooner or later."
Once at the slaughterhouse, some animals are too injured to walk and others simply refuse to go quietly to their deaths. This is how the workers deal with it: "The preferred method of handling a cripple is to beat him to death with a lead pipe before he gets into the chute. ... If you get a hog in a chute that's had the %#&!*% prodded out of him, and has a heart attack or refuses to move, you take a meat hook and hook it into his bunghole (anus) ... and a lot of times the meat hook rips out of the bunghole. I've seen thighs completely ripped open. I've also seen intestines come out."
And here is what awaits the various animals on the kill floor. First, the testimony of a horse slaughterhouse worker: "You move so fast you don't have time to wait till a horse bleeds out. You skin him as he bleeds. Sometimes a horse's nose is down in the blood, blowing bubbles, and he suffocates."
Then another worker, on cow slaughter: "A lot of times the skinner finds a cow is still conscious when he slices the side of its head and it starts kicking wildly. If that happens, ... the skinner shoves a knife into the back of its head to cut the spinal cord." (This paralyzes the animal, but doesn't stop the pain of being skinned alive.)
And still another, on calf slaughter: "To get done with them faster, we'd put eight or nine of them in the knocking box at a time ... You start shooting, the calves are jumping, they're all piling up on top of each other. You don't know which ones got shot and which didn't ... They're hung anyway, and down the line they go, wriggling and yelling" (to be slaughtered while fully conscious).
And on pig slaughter: "If the hog is conscious, ... it takes a long time for him to bleed out. These hogs get up to the scalding tank, hit the water, and start kicking and screaming ... There's a rotating arm that pushes them under. No chance for them to get out. I am not sure if they burn to death before they drown, but it takes them a couple of minutes to stop thrashing."
The work takes a major emotional toll on the workers. Here's one worker's account: "I've taken out my job pressure and frustration on the animals, on my wife, ... and on myself, with heavy drinking." Then it gets a lot worse: ... [w]ith an animal who pisses you off, you don't just kill it. You ... blow the windpipe, make it drown in its own blood, split its nose ... I would cut its eye out ... and this hog would just scream. One time I ... sliced off the end of a hog's nose. The hog went crazy, so I took a handful of salt brine and ground it into his nose. Now that hog really went nuts ..."
Safety is a major problem for workers who spend their days standing on a floor slippery with blood and gore, surrounded by conscious animals kicking for their lives, and pressed by a speeding slaughter line, while they operate sharp instruments. Indeed, 36 percent incur serious injuries, making their work the most hazardous in America. Workers who are disabled and those who complain about working conditions are fired and frequently replaced by undocumented aliens. Several years ago, 25 workers were burned to death in a chicken slaughterhouse fire in Hamlet, N.C., because management had locked the safety doors to prevent theft.
Here is a worker's account: "The conditions are very dangerous, and workers aren't well trained for the machinery. One machine has a whirring blade that catches people in it. Workers lose fingers. One woman's breast got caught in it and was torn off. Another's shirt got caught and her face was dragged into it."
Although Slaughterhouse focuses on animal cruelty and worker safety, it also addresses the issues of consumer health, including the failure of the federal inspection system. There is a poignant testimony from the mother of a child who ate a hamburger contaminated with E. coli: "After Brianne's second emergency surgery, surgeons left her open from her sternum to her pubic area to allow her swollen organs room to expand and prevent them from ripping her skin ... Her heart ... bled from every pore. The toxins shut down Brianne's liver and pancreas. An insulin pump was started. Several times her skin turned black for weeks. She had a brain swell that the neurologists could not treat ... They told us that Brianne was essentially brain-dead.
Slaughterhouse has some problems. In an attempt to reflect the timeline of the investigation, the presentation suffers from poor organization and considerable redundancy. But that's a bit like criticizing the testimony on my Holocaust experiences because of my Polish accent. The major problem is not with the content of the book, but with its cover. The title and the headless carcasses pictured on the dust jacket effectively ensure that the book will not be read and the crucial testimony inside will not get out to the consuming public.
And that's a pity. Because the countless animals whose agony the book documents so graphically deserve to have their story told. And because Slaughterhouse is the most powerful argument for meatless eating that I have ever read. Eisnitz' closing comment, "Now you know, and you can help end these atrocities," should be fair warning. After nearly 25 years of work on farm animal issues, including leading several slaughterhouse demonstrations, I was deeply affected. Indeed, reading Slaughterhouse has changed my life.Reviews of Slaughterhouse
Lawrence Carter-Long, Animal Protection Institute
"A book must be the ax for the frozen sea within us," wrote Franz Kafka decades ago, a line that could serve just as well as the book-jacket endorsement for Gail Eisnitz's Slaughterhouse. Her exposé of the meat industry shocks us into realizing the horror that exists largely unseen around us and helps us realize that the impact of the meat industry is felt everywhere, from elementary classrooms to government offices to feedlots to courtrooms.
The E. coli deaths recently in the news substantiate the evidence Eisnitz documents here. Can anyone, least of all a meat-eater, still believe that the U.S. has an adequate meat-inspection system? Through anecdotes and interviews with USDA inspectors, slaughterhouse workers, undercover investigators, and other industry insiders, Eisnitz convincingly lays bare the disturbing indifference displayed by the meat industry not only toward animal suffering but also toward the exploitation of its human workers and toward a product that puts its customers at risk through exposure to life-threatening bacteria.
Emotional where it needs to be, Slaughterhouse is a thoroughly researched and powerfully damning indictment of the U.S. meat industry. With good distribution and a wide enough audience, it has the potential for slaughterhouse reform as no book has since Upton Sinclair's 1906 The Jungle turned stomachs and inspired improved laws to govern the meat industry.
"Steve Barney, Representative, Animal Liberation Action Group,
University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh
I've just read Slaughterhouse, by Gail Eisnitz (Prometheus Books, December 1997). It's the story of the author's investigation and collection of overwhelming evidence of the egregious abuse of animals without any regard for the Humane Slaughter Act, contempt for the safety and well-being of workers, and disregard for the Federal Meat Inspection Act and public health.
It is the story of how the U.S. government is shirking its responsibility to ensure that meat and other animal products are not diseased or contaminated, but instead is placing that responsibility in the hands of consumers. The government now teaches consumers how to cook their meat in order to kill the germs even though it's obvious that cooking cannot solve the problem, since infected meat will contaminate your hands, kitchen surfaces, and anything else either you or it touches.
It exhaustively documents the routine skinning, scalding, and butchering of live, fully conscious and sentient animals.
Equally disturbing is the author's story of the refusal of the major television network news magazines to let the masses know about what is actually happening in the slaughterhouses of America. Using excuses such as "too disgusting" or "too graphic", which lose all credibility in light of the daily torrent of graphic and disgusting television violence with which we are all too familiar, TV news executives are responsible for obstructing the dissemination of the information which must reach the masses if we are to have any chance of developing the political will that is necessary to put an end to these atrocities and outrages. The national news media, with their skewed priorities based on arbitrary and unjustifiable taste preferences, apparently won't consider the consequences of their decisions.
I strongly urge you to expose the subject of this book, which was written because of the national news media's negligence.Reviews of Slaughterhouse
Slaughterhouse, by Gail Eisnitz, is the chilling exposé of what really occurs behind slaughterhouse doors in this country, how high-speed technology contrives with profit-obsession to contaminate meat, and why the American public is doomed to a continually unsafe meat supply. In this precisely detailed chronicle of her investigations into humane slaughter violations across the United States, Gail Eisnitz offers an unprecedented look at the grossly inhumane practices that mark the killing floor, their condonement and avid public relations coverup by the USDA, and their stunning public consequences: the daily release of USDA-approved infected meat into the market.
Sparked by a letter from a USDA employee informing her of cattle being skinned alive in Florida, Gail's research leads her to interview dozens of plant workers -- stun operators, stickers, skinners, plant supervisors, USDA inspectors -- at cattle, hog, horse, and poultry plants and onto the killing floors herself. The picture that unfolds is horrific beyond measure: On high-speed lines, cattle and hogs are regularly stuck, skinned, legged, and scalded alive. Stunned inefficiently, bellowing animals kick and twist, sometimes unshackling, falling, and injuring workers. Workers, pushed to the breaking point by insane assembly-line speeds and productivity constraints, aggressively engage in grotesque sadisms, gratuitously torturing live animals at work (with lead pipes, electric prods, forced immersions), and physically abusing spouses and children at home. Plant conditions are often morbidly unsanitary: Workers testify to roach and rat infestations, fecal smears, and pus and maggots oozing from infected meat. Assembly-line innovations like chill tanks and sprays effectively spread bacteria. USDA meat inspectors, also stationed along the assemblyline, desultorily examining samples for disease, reveal the calculated negligence of their practice: Subsumed within plant hierarchies, constrained to comply with production-line imperatives, they routinely pass visibly infected meat and turn a blind eye to federal slaughter violations.
Tracing the inertia of killing-floor practices upwards through plant management, industry heads and executive USDA strata, Gail uncovers entrenched corruption in the cynical policies of three Presidential administrations and shows how steady deregulating over the past 15 years has led to the USDA's "duplicitous mandate" of promoting beef while, ostensibly, protecting it. The arc of Gail's investigation is immense; the prose cinematic, clear-eyed, unflinching, as in the compelling description of the painful personal toll her journey exacts. This meticulously ordered composite of information serves as manifesto; in the face of repeated refusals by mainstream media (network shows like 20/20 and Prime Time Live) to publicize the results of her investigation into slaughterhouse cruelty and unsafe meat, she "tells the world" through the aegis of the book, and the telling is a call to action because the extremities of animal suffering she describes are current, and continue, and call to us.
In Peter Singer's words: "Gail Eisnitz has penetrated the veil that hangs over meat production, and what she has found will shock every reader. Eisnitz is a brilliant investigator, writes superbly, and has the courage and persistence of someone who knows that she is right. No longer can anyone believe that in the United States there is adequate inspection and control of slaughterhouses." The revelations Slaughterhouse proffers are diverse and all of them disturbing: No one who still eats meat can afford to fore go the reading of this book; no one should remain unchanged by it.
PIG FARM CRUELTY REVEALED
Texas County pig farm worker Alejo Peña pleaded to three counts of felony cruelty to animals stemming from a PETA undercover investigation videotape showing Peña, manager of the Seaboard Farms, Inc.-owned pig farm, mercilessly bludgeoning pigs with iron gate rods in three separate incidents. This is the first time in U.S. history that a farmer has pleaded to felony cruelty to animals for injuring and killing animals raised for food. On May 14, 2001, PETA submitted the video to Texas County District Attorney Donald E. Wood, whose office filed charges against Peña on August 31. Click here to read more.
Employees at Seaboard, North America’s third largest pork producer, were caught on video routinely throwing, beating, kicking, slamming against concrete floors, and bludgeoning animals with metal gate rods and hammers. Other pigs were left to die slow and agonizing deaths with severe injuries, illness, and lameness, often unable to reach food or water, without even a trace of veterinary care despite the fact that Peña was fully aware of their conditions.
In 1999, in North Carolina, the first-ever felony indictments for cruelty to animals on a factory farm in the U.S. were issued against 3 workers after a PETA investigation into a pig breeding facility called Belcross Farm. In that case, all three workers were convicted for their parts in the beating and bludgeoning of pigs, including the skinning of a sow who was still fully conscious.
Both of these cases and subsequent charges represent a growing awareness for the suffering of animals on factory farms and serve as a clear reminder for the need to help directly alleviate such suffering by adopting a vegetarian diet.
What You Can Do
Please write a letter to the new district attorney thanking his office for taking cruelty to farm animals seriously and for filing the charges. Write to:
District Attorney for Texas County
319 N. Main St.
Guymon, OK 73942
Don’t support this abuse—go vegan today, if you haven’t already. Write to PETA or visit GoVeg.com for a free vegetarian starter kit.
Please help us make a difference in the lives of the millions of cows, pigs, chickens, and other animals suffering on factory farms and in slaughterhouses. Click here to support PETA's work in their behalf.
Every year, the global leather industry slaughters more than a billion animals and tans their skins and hides.1 Many animals from whom these skins are taken suffer all the horrors of factory farming, including extreme crowding and confinement, deprivation, unanesthetized castration, branding, tail-docking, dehorning, and cruel treatment during transport and slaughter.
High Byproduct Value
The multibillion-dollar meat industry profits from more than just the animals’ flesh. The byproducts of meat consumption include fats and blood that are used in livestock feed, tires, explosives, paints, and cosmetics; organs that are used in pet food; and heart valves that are used in the pharmaceutical industry.2,3 The skin of the animal, however, represents “the most economically important byproduct of the meat packing industry.”4
When dairy cows’ production declines, their skin is also made into leather; the hides of their offspring, “veal” calves, are made into high-priced calfskin. Thus, the economic success of the slaughterhouse and the dairy farm is directly linked to the sale of leather goods.
Other Animals Slaughtered for Skins
Most leather produced and sold in the United States is made from the skins of cattle and calves, but leather is also made from horses, sheep, lambs, goats, and pigs who are slaughtered for meat. Other species are hunted and killed specifically for their skins, including zebras, bison, water buffaloes, boars, kangaroos, elephants, eels, sharks, dolphins, seals, walruses, frogs, turtles, crocodiles, lizards, and snakes.
Other “exotic” animals, such as alligators, are factory-farmed for their skins and meat. Young alligators may be kept in tanks above ground, while the bigger animals live in pools half-sunken into concrete slabs.5 According to Florida’s regulations, as many as 350 6-foot alligators may legally inhabit a space the size of a typical family home.6 One Georgia farmer had 10,000 alligators living in four buildings, where “hundreds and hundreds of alligators fill every inch of [each] room,” according to the Los Angeles Times.7 Although alligators may naturally live up to 60 years, on farms they are usually butchered before the age of 2, as soon as they reach 4 to 6 feet in length.8,9 Humane treatment is not a priority of those who poach and hunt animals to obtain their skin or those who transform skin into leather. Alligators on farms may be beaten to death with hammers and axes, sometimes remaining conscious and in agony for up to two hours after being skinned.10
Kangaroos are slaughtered by the millions every year, their skins considered to be prime material for soccer shoes.11,12 Although the Australian government requires hunters to shoot the animals, orphaned joeys and wounded adults are, according to government code, to be decapitated or hit sharply on the head “to destroy the brain.”13 Snakes and lizards may be skinned alive because of the belief that live flaying imparts suppleness to the finished leather. Kid goats may be boiled alive to make kid gloves, and the skins of unborn calves and lambs—some purposely aborted, others from slaughtered pregnant cows and ewes—are considered especially “luxurious.”
Shearling, contrary to what many consumers think, is not sheared wool; the term refers to a yearling sheep who has been shorn once. A shearling garment is made from a sheep or lamb shorn shortly before slaughter; the skin is tanned with the wool still on it.
Animals used to produce leather in other countries often suffer horribly as well. A PETA investigation into cattle slaughter in India, where many mistakenly believe that cows are revered, revealed that old cows are sold at auction and then marched long distances to illegal transport trucks. Often sick and injured from the grueling march, as many as 50 cattle are crammed into trucks designed to hold no more than a dozen animals. They are then driven over rutted roads, all the while goring and trampling each other, to ancient slaughterhouses where all four feet are bound together and their throats are slit.
Hundreds of thousands of dog and cat skins are traded in Europe each year (with an estimated 2 million killed in China to meet the demand), but many are bought unknowingly by consumers since the products made from dog and cat fur are often mislabeled and do not accurately indicate their origin.14 In France, more than 20,000 cats are stolen for the skin trade annually; during a police raid on a tannery in Deux-Sèvres, 1,500 skins, used to make baby shoes, were seized.15 When you buy leather products, you may unknowingly be purchasing leather from dog and cat tanneries.
Although leathermakers like to tout their products as “biodegradable” and “eco-friendly,” the process of tanning stabilizes the collagen or protein fibers so that they actually stop biodegrading.
Until the late 1800s, animal skin was air- or salt-dried and tanned with vegetable tannins or oil, but today animal skin is turned into finished leather with a variety of much more dangerous substances, including mineral salts, formaldehyde, coal-tar derivatives, and various oils, dyes, and finishes, some of them cyanide-based.
Among the disastrous consequences of this noxious waste is the threat to human health from the highly elevated levels of lead, cyanide, and formaldehyde in the groundwater near tanneries. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the incidence of leukemia among residents in an area surrounding one tannery in Kentucky was five times the national average.16 Arsenic, a common tannery chemical, has long been associated with lung cancer in workers who are exposed to it on a regular basis. Several studies have established links between sinus and lung cancers and the chromium used in tanning.17 Studies of leather-tannery workers in Sweden and Italy found cancer risks “between 20% and 50% above [those] expected.”18
Raising animals whose skins eventually become leather creates waste and pollution. Huge amounts of fossil fuels are consumed in livestock production. (By contrast, plastic wearables account for only a fraction of the petroleum used in the U.S.) Trees are cleared to create pastureland, vast quantities of water are used, and feedlot and dairy-farm runoff are a major source of water pollution. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, tanneries have largely shifted operations worldwide from developed to undeveloped nations, where labor is cheap and environmental regulations are lax.19
There are many alternatives to leather, including cotton, linen, rubber, ramie, canvas, and synthetics. Chlorenol (called “Hydrolite” by Avia and “Durabuck” by Nike), used in athletic and hiking shoes, is an exciting new material that’s perforated for breatheability, stretches around the foot with the same “give” as leather, gives good support, and is machine-washable.
Vegan shoes and accessories are inexpensive, and some are even made from recycled materials.
Where to Shop
Leather alternatives can be found just about anywhere you might shop. But some places, such as discount shoe and variety stores, offer larger selections. Designers like Liz Claiborne, Capezio, Sam & Libby, Steve Madden, and Nike (call 1-800-344-NIKE for a current list of vegan styles) offer an array of nonleather handbags, wallets, and shoes.
For a list of nearly 100 companies that offer nonleather products, order a free copy of “PETA’s Shopping Guide to Nonleather Products” by mail or by visiting CowsAreCool.com. Shop PETA’s online cruelty-free mall for nonleather clothes, shoes, and accessories at PETAMall.com.
The following is a list of mail-order companies that specialize in nonleather clothing and accessories (see CowsAreCool.com for an exhaustive list):
3A. Severin Johnson, “Packing House Byproducts,” Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, Iowa State University, Feb. 2003.
4David G. Bailey, “Gamma Radiation Preservation of Cattle Hides: A New Twist on an Old Story,” Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture, 18 Dec. 1998.
5Michael P. Masser, “Alligator Production,” Southern Regional Aquaculture Center, May 1993.
7Edith Stanley, “Chicken Again? These Gators Get a Steady Diet of Dead Fowl,” Los Angeles Times, 10 Jun. 2001.
8“Alligator & Crocodile,” Animal Bytes, San Diego Zoo.org, 2003 <http://www.sandiegozoo.org/animalbytes/t-crocodile.html>.
10Sue Reid, “Getting Under Their Skin,” The Sunday Times (London), 16 Feb. 1997.
11Environment Australia, “Commercial Kangaroo Harvest Quotas—2003,” Wild Harvest of Native Species—Kangaroos, 8 May 2003 <http://www.ea.gov.au/biodiversity/trade-use/wild-harvest/kangaroo/quota-summary-2003.html>.
12“Tie Me Kangaroo Down, Sport,” The Sports Factor, narr. Amanda Smith, Radio National, Australia, 31 May 2002.
13Department for Environment and Heritage, “The Macropod Conservaton and Management Plan for South Australia