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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Oh my, you look a little...stunned?

I received in my email, a link to an article about a 'slaughterhouse' in Molokai, which, after a couple of decades of battling bovine TB, is the first one on the island. I wasn't sure what to make of it simply because it came to me from the AR-HI (Animal Rights - Hawaii) mailing list and it put the setting up of this abattoir in a very positive light. What do I mean? Well, I guess my initial difficulty was getting over the imagined/apparent brutality of scenes of slaughter that fill my mind every single time I read something like this. I mean, I understand that there is a lot of good that can, well, possibly come of this, such as providing employment or even reviving a previously failed industry or whatever. But at the end of the day, economic analysis has usually resulted in the objectification of the world around us without much care for the sanctity of life. Also, I have a big issue trying to reconcile what I understand with what I accept. I've come to realize that there is a Grand Canyon of difference between understanding something and accepting it. Annnyway, and continuing with my 'mixed reaction' to the whole thing, I was pretty surprised to see that this effort was supported by so many governing bodies, as listed in the article. To list them for the readers: the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service, Molokai Rural Development Program, Molokai Agricultural Development Program, the county Office of Economic Development, the Department of Business, Economic Development & Tourism, Tri-Isle Resource Conservation and Development Council, Office of Hawaiian Affairs, Alu Like Inc., Molokai Chamber of Commerce, Kuha’o Business Center, University of Hawaii Cooperative Extension Service and Hawaii Livestock Cooperative.

And then, I found another email which was a direct statement/comment on the workings of the USDA. I'm going to post it in its entirety, but before I do I'd just like to say that I guess there is a big difference between deciding the 'rights of animals' and actually protecting their interests, namely their interests in survival. A little disappointed am I no doubt, but that's probably because I'm feeling a little more 'militant' in my approach today. Well, without much further ado, or another unholy tangent, here is the article by Lauralee Blanchard.

Tie between industry and USDA should be eliminated

The Jan. 21 headline about the failures of the United States Department of Agriculture reveal the corruption and incompetence of this government agency.

First it was reported that USDA inspectors missed a calf’s vertebral column in a shipment of veal to Japan, resulting in reinstatement of a ban. Meat contaminated with spinal cord matter presents a greater risk of spreading mad cow disease, the common term for bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

Then we learned that the Agriculture Department just pretended to investigate anti-competitive behavior among stockyards and meat companies, but in hundreds of cases hadn’t actually filed complaints.

The USDA has been assigned two radically opposing missions. The very same department responsible for developing new and expanded markets for the meat industry is also charged with regulating meatpackers, protecting public health, and ensuring the humane treatment of animals.

Agribusiness leaders from the private sector have been appointed to administer the USDA’s meat-inspection program. Instead of wielding their authority to ensure the production of safe meat and require industry compliance with the Humane Slaughter Act, USDA officials have done virtually everything in their power to ensure that slaughter lines keep running undisturbed and postmortem inspections pass.

It is time for the cozy relationship between the USDA and the meat industry to come to an end.

Them's fightin words! And this particular argument is more politico-ideological because it points out the rather dichotomous aims of the USDA. Well, it may not be anything antidisestablishmentarian or anything, but I'm sure the 'foulness' will have to be dealt with eh?

In conclusion, so to speak, I had to check out the Humane Slaughter Act (this document that I've linked to is a training module) and what it said really. Well, as this document points out, the first such act was passed in 1958 and it applied to people, "meat packers", who sold meat to the federal government. This meant that it was possible for those who did not sell to the federal government to do as they pleased. Well, the next law was passed in 1978, and this is the one that is currently enforced. So what, according to this act, constitutes 'humane' treatment?

"[The Humane Slaughter Act requires] that livestock are rendered insensible to pain before being shackled, hoisted, cast, or cut. It also mandated several additional specific requirements to the humane handling of animals in meat packing plants in the United States. These include: "downers" cannot be dragged while conscious, workers are not allowed to physically retaliate against animals, water must be provided to animals at all times, and cattle prods connected to AC house current must be reduced by a transformer to the lowest effective voltage not to exceed 50 volts."

Wow! Now that's an act if I ever saw one. He he he. Oh, and if you happen to check out that document you will also come across a section on "stunning methods". No no, not because these methods are in any way 'dazzling' or anything, but because they facilitate the slaughter of a subdued animal. So, how are they 'stunned'?

1) Chemical (Carbon Dioxide -CO2)
2) Mechanical (Captive Bolt)
3) Mechanical (Gunshot)
4) Electrical (Electrical Current)

And here's another matter-of-fact document from Texas A&M University titled "Slaughter-Dressing Animal Livestock." Please to be checking it out people. The language used is pretty ghastly, and especially depressing when one reads it on a sombre day. Think of the animals...and I don't mean figuring out ways for them to die because that seems to have been covered already.

I know this particular post is at best haphazard and at worst not saying anything in particular. But in the process of writing it I've realized that good intentions, without referring to the contents here or of any of the articles/documents linked to in this post, have a sad way of being not-so-good. What's an intention without some kind of ultimate realization eh? Or would that have to come in the form of some kind of calamity/catatstrophe?
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