Most people have heard the old saying “a bit of dirt never hurt anyone.” When my kids were little and they dropped a piece of apple on the floor, I would run it under the tap for a second or two before passing it back to them for a (usually unsuccessful) second attempt to eat it. I did it almost without thinking--instinctively perhaps. And I remember my parents doing the same for me--and no doubt my grandparents did exactly the same for my parents when they were young. Of course, the underlying principle here arguably has its roots in basic human biology: the more germs we are exposed to when we are younger, the stronger our immune systems are in later life. And this very same principle extends to the way many of us choose to farm.
I got an email a few days ago with a link to footage taken at a Vermont slaughter plant. I often receive videos depicting horrific animal treatment, but this one stood out. The footage I was sent showed veal calves—only days old—unable to walk or stand on their own, repeatedly kicked, slapped and shocked.
Once again, we have sickening proof that there are people who just don’t get it. In a civilized society we have to do things right. The USDA, despite the industry’s best efforts, does have rules that cover some parts of a slaughter plant operation. Slaughter plants that operate like this can’t hide anymore. People are no longer satisfied with being spoon-fed lies about production practices that are “in our best interests”; the consumer is educated, interested and is paying attention.
What makes these incidents particularly horrific is these workers surely know that a calf only days old needs to be lifted and carried. A newborn calf spends the early part of its life gaining strength by sleeping and lying down.
The law prohibits “downers” (cattle that can’t walk on their own) from entering the food chain, putting into motion a nice, big Catch 22—a young calf cannot be slaughtered if it can’t stand up but it cannot stand up because it’s physically unable to. Enter stage right, the guy who sets about administering electric shocks, kicking the animals and screaming. He does this because the system he works in has taught him to believe that kicking and screaming and inflicting pain will motivate a calf who can’t stand up, to stand up. The video graphically displays the failure of his belief.
In perhaps the very definition of dereliction of duty, an inspector stands and watches as a calf–who because of poor management and zero thought process, has not been stunned or killed–has its skin peeled off. It defies reason. What on earth stopped the inspector, at the first sign of the calf’s sentience, from having the animal instantly stunned? As the law, by the way, requires.
I am proud to say we have many slaughter plants in the AWA program that take their job seriously and would never allow these violations; they have respect for the animals, the staff and consumers. What I am disappointed in is that we still need HSUS to show us that there are still some who just don’t get it. Well done HSUS—we don’t need these people representing American farmers and slaughter plants.
If you want to do something, write to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and ask him to enforce the regulations already in place. If he doesn’t there will be no farm animal program for him to oversee—public outrage can and will bring an end to pitiless slaughter to the detriment of all farmers. Those who do it right don’t deserve to be painted with the same brush as those who clearly don’t know what is wrong.