Why slaughterhouses should be open to the public

Why slaughterhouses should be open to the public: USDA and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture have suspended operations at the Bushway Packing plant in Grand Isle, VT, a facility that processes veal calves, pending a continuing investigation based on abuses uncovered by the Humane Society. Videotape from HSUS's undercover investigation showed workers kicking, slapping, shocking, and in one case skinning alive veal calves only a few days old, many of whom were unable to stand or walk on their own. (HSUS) Opinionating: Many otherwise dedicated carnivores refuse to eat veal for its inhumane practices. However, veal is an inescapable byproduct of the dairy industry: male calves not eaten for meat are ground up for pet food. All those who eat meat and dairy — yes, pipe down, you vegans waiting to pounce in the comments section — have an obligation to see that these young animals too get to enjoy a humane if short life and die with dignity and minimal suffering. And the more squeamish we are about refusing to even look at what goes on in these painful areas of the meat industry, the more cover we give to horrible abuses like the ones at Bushway.

2 Responsesto “Why slaughterhouses should be open to the public”

  1. Joe says:

    One of the interesting facts of this case appears to be the implication of involvement by the FSIS inspectors themselves.  I have heard that some of the inspection staff has been disciplined.  If there isn't committment from the top within the organization to eradicate tolerance for these abuses, they will continue.  These means that surely there are other cases out there waiting to come to light.  Line speed will always be a key issue.

  2. This is a bad idea. The public can't be physically coming into the slaughterhouse or butcher shop for the simple reason that people are dirty and diseased, to paraphrase the great comedian George Carlin. People coming into the plant definitely would carry disease organisms into where the meat is being prepared. This violates food safety and endangers consumers without doing anything to ensure humane standards.

    Homeland security also strongly advises against letting people into the shop because of possible purposeful contamination - e.g., terrorism threats. If someone has free access to the place, like let's say HSUS and PETA's violent offshoots, ALF and their like, then they can, nye, will purposefully poison food, plant disease, bomb and otherwise contaminate the food chain.

    Even if you did give public access it is a lot more complex than you imagine. You're going to need security guards, wash up stations, disposable booties, aprons, hair nets, face masks, latex gloves, transparent partitions and other things to keep the food supply safe from the above accidental or intentional contamination of food. The butcher shop will need to be larger to accommodate visitors. There will be more permitting requirements when it becomes a public as opposed to a private business. More bathrooms will have to be added for visitors as they're not allowed in the bathroom for staff that are handling cooked foods or raw foods. More parking will be needed for all their cars and tour buses. All of this will dramatically increase the cost of processing and drive many butcher shops out of business meaning farmers won't have a way to get their pork to fork. Yes, the radical vegans will love that but it won't help farmers or foodies.

    Time is a critical issue with very small butcher shops which might only have one or two people, often family, working there. Currently I get an average of nine requests a week from people who want to drop by and visit our farm to see how we do everything so they can learn to do it themselves. There was a time when I did lots of farm tours. My wife Holly asked me to stop because we weren't able to get all of our projects, chores, new construction, etc done. The compromise we settled on was having a great web site blog with lots of photos and articles about how we do things and the occasional open house bonfire with swimming or sledding. This way we still got to do our work 363 days a year (farmers work 7 days a week) and people could come visit a couple of times a year.

    Realize that a working farmer or butcher, just like most other professions, doesn't have the time to drop everything their doing, get cleaned up to shake hands, spend a couple of hours giving tours and then get cleaned up and dressed for real work again. The reality is time costs money. In fact labor and thus time is the most expensive part of processing. Yes, there are some places setup for agritourism. They have that time built into their plan - expect to pay a fee for that visit too as it should be. But working farms and butcher shops aren't going to be able to be open to the public and still do their work.

    What is needed is better education, without government mandates, about how to properly and humanely handle animals. The information is available and people who care use it. A great deal of research on animal handling has been done by Temple Grandin, who's letter is very selectively quoted and abused by HSUS to bias their news stores - lies by any other name. Calm animals, humanely slaughtered mean better quality meat. Death is a fact of life. We are part of the web of life. Unlike the terror of death in the wild we can make a good life for our food and we can calmly, quietly and humanely ease them through death onto the plate.

    Public access isn't the answer, it's just a distraction. Don't be fooled into reacting to the wrong issue or over reacting to isolated incidences and hysteria promoted by the HSUS, PETA, ALF and their kin. If you want to make a difference then buy as directly as you can, both for your meat, fruit, vegetables and other things. Go to the source. Buy a whole or half animal slaughtered on-farm and do the butcher work yourself so you know how it is done - that is the ultimate solution, taking responsibility for our lives. You'll also get about 30% more meat and other good food when you do it yourself vs having it done at the butcher. Waste not, want not.