animal cruelty and the food supply

There are a lot of reasons to eat less meat, including personal health, the impact on climate change, and other environmental impacts, including pesticides and waste in rivers and waste in the water table.

And then there’s the issue of factory farms in general, and the question of how to assure that giant meat producers follow standards of quality and ethics. Large corporations, with a focus on the bottom line, place tremendous pressure on their employees to engage in unsafe and unethical practices. These bring out other concerns, including broader health concerns and the treatment of animals.

Today, the USDA announced the recall of 143 million pounds of beef produced by Westlake/Hallmark, based on the evidence presented in the following video, produced by an undercover reporter for the Humane Society of the United States. Before you watch it, you should know this video is one of the most disturbing things I’ve seen in a very long time.

In this facility, cattle who cannot stand on their own are lifted, rolled and speared by forklifts. Another has water shot into its nostrils to simulate drowning (cattle waterboarding, I suppose), and others are beaten in a routine and horrifying way. All in order to get sick cattle passed by the inspectors so they can be put into our food supply.

Unfortunately, most of the meat produced at this facility has already been eaten, and much of it (perhaps 37 million pounds) by children through school lunch programs. Two employees have been fired and charged with animal cruelty, but there are clearly deeply entrenched problems within this industry that aren’t addressed by punishing a couple of workers on the line. All in all, a deeply disturbing episode.

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