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24 February, 2008 - Meat Processing Industry Needs to Act

It is time for the meat processing industry in the United States to get it’s house in order.  As a matter of fact, it is way past time for the industry to get that job done.  We have simply had too many incidents over the last decade that puts animal agriculture and the meat processing industry in the worst light.  

It couldn’t be much worse than what the nation has watched over and over again, for the past two or three weeks, on television news programs across the nation; the undercover video taken at a packing plant in California showing workers shocking, kicking and shoving “downer” cattle with fork lifts.  It ultimately led  U.S.D.A. to recall 143- million pounds of the company’s beef; not so much for concern over the safety of the meat, but because the processing was done without plant personnel following rules that are in place.

The Department of Agriculture guidelines mandate that an inspector must review sick or injured animals, called “downer” cattle before they can be slaughtered and the 1958 Humane Slaughter Act set strict rules for the humane treatment of animals in packing plants. In this case, both of those orders were ignored. That is the reason for the beef recall and it is the reason the plant has been closed. The two workers were fired and have now been charged with felonies for their actions.

The President of the Humane Society of the United States, the group that conducted the undercover video, said he feels this is common practice in the meat processing industry and the denial by industry spokespersons “is the typical rhetoric and false assurances that we hear from the industry after glaring problems have been exposed”.

I do not agree with the President of the Humane Society.  I think this is a separate case and not widespread across the industry.  I also know that part of the stated goal of the Humane Society of the United States is to put an end to livestock production in this country and turn all of us into vegetarians.  I also question why, if the Society was so concerned about the practices in the plant, they waited six months before they revealed the videotape, in effect allowing these plant employees to continue the inhumane practices for another half-year.

Yet this incident, as well as the shipments of beef containing banned ingredients to South Korea and other countries that cost U.S. cattle producers millions of dollars in lost sales, just emphasizes again the need for the meat processing industry to clean house and police itself to restore its integrity, credibility and reputation. The entire livestock industry cannot afford this kind of activity.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.