August 22, 2009

Inhumane Slaughtering - Does it exist in the US?

by Suzana Megles

Just as many of us were appalled that some of the bank bail out money was used to give CEOs and other "deserving" bank employees raises - this sadly seems to be a way of life for too many Americans. Because of the allure of money - we have done unscrupulous things in not only banking, but housing, stocks, etc. Why are we so selfish and greedy? Didn't our parents, teachers, and churches teach us to be honest, ethical, and caring? I truly wonder where we can lay the blame. Anybody have any ideas?

I have for a long time felt the USDA, the FDA and other facets of government are also not beyond reproach -neglecting to do what was their original purposes for one thing. Today I received the The Humane Farming Association's newsletter revealing shameful misuse of USDA funds to stop the cruel slaughtering practices in our slaughterhouses.

The article which caught my attention read "From Whitehouse to Slaughterhouse - to Courthouse. HFA Puts Promise of "Transparency" to the Test."

HFA was the first to reveal that farm animals in our slaughterhouses are often dismembered while still alive. I was horrified when I first read this and can't believe that we can be so cruel. But sadly we are. The Washington Post wrote about HFA's groundbreaking investigations ("They Die Piece by Piece") and this resulted in a great deal of media attention. Sadly, it would seem little else-with the exception of Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) who sprang into action on the congressional floor with an impassioned speech. He said "Federal law is being ignored...It is sickening and infuriating. The barbaric treatment of helpless, defenseless creatures must not be tolerated. Life must be respected and dealt with humanely in a civilized society."

I believe this address was made in 2002 or 3 because I included it in my homespun book (Blame it on Peaches) which was published in 2003. I was so proud of this man for his compassionate stance, and when he confronted the USDA re this-they claimed there was not enough money to oversee the slaughtering practices over the nation. So the US Senate then appropriated $1 million into the USDA's budget for enforcement of the Humane Slaughter Act at the country's 900 slaughterhouses. Imagine- this was the first funding allocated to enforce the
humane slaughter regulations. Passing a law should require oversight and money if needed.

Later Senator Byrd - prompted by the HFA saw to an annual increase of 5 million dollars for this purpose. At this time he noted "USDA now has the capability to take action to reduce this disgusting cruelty." You would think so-wouldn't you?

But I guess- knowing of how the USDA operated in other animal-related circumstances, I should not have been surprised when I read the HFA's new findings: "Not wanting its inspectors to "impede" production by enforcing federal law, USDA failed to use the new appropriation to station meat inspectors in the areas of slaughterhouses where they could view live animals being mishandled and killed. Instead, USDA established 17 NEW VETERINARY POSTIONS. These USDA veterinarians were stationed - not in slaughterhouses - but in USDA field offices were they would have no direct oversight of slaughter practices. Worse still- these new veterinarians ended up spending most of their time conducting tasks unrelated to humane slaughter - CONTRARY TO THE PURPOSE OF THE CONGRESSIONAL FUNDING."

My first thought was - shouldn't this be against the law? Shouldn't the USDA officials responsible for this blatant ignoring of the appropriation money's purpose be fired?

HFA did notify Senator Byrd who demanded that these new USDA personnel limit their work to the enforcement of the Humane Slaughter Act. HFA also contacted the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and according to them-nearly a year and a half after these 17 vets were hired, some hadn't visited their assigned plants even once.

HFA also filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the USDA asking for all official email correspondence from these vets during a six-month period so that government information be made available to the public.

Not surprisingly- the the USDA is stonewalling HFA's requests to turn over documents in this regard. Failing to get the requested information, HFA's legal team has notified USDA of its intent to file a lawsuit to compel the release of the slaughterhouse-related documents. Reading this -I couldn't help but wonder - what kind of government do we really have? A branch of it is ignoring a law (Humane Slaughter Law) as well as refusing to use the funds for the purpose appropriated - overseeing the slaughter lines for lack of humane slaughtering practices.

I hope anybody who is as angry as I am will do any or all of these 3 things:

1. Contact President Obama and ask him how committed he is to "transparency." The USDA is certainly failing in this regard -ignoring HFA's requested emails re the new veterinarians' work which SHOULD be involved with halting the unconscionable live deaths of our food animals and apparently is not. What will he do about this? Does he care that animals are slaughtered "piece by piece?" Shouldn't we all care?

2. Make a donation to Humane Farming if you are abhorrent of the facts revealed by HFA re the all too common cruel slaughtering practices in our slaughterhouses. I am grateful to HFA for keeping on this subject which years ago should have been taken care of by officials of compassion and was not. Innocent animals are not only giving up their lives for your steaks and hamburgers but are doing so in a most horrible and cruel way. Yes, my use of "your" was intentional. Some of us don't eat meat. (Humane Farming is on the internet.)

3. Thank Senator Byrd for being it seems the lone voice in this regard- though the Senate did agree to his appropriation requests in this regard. Ask him to do what he can to stop the ignoring mandates of the Humane Slaughtering Act as well as the wrong use of the funds allocated for this purpose. Also remind him of the "transparency" promise of this Democratic president. This cruelty should be brought to his attention.

I have been concerned about animal suffering ever since I received my first puppy Peaches in 1975. She made me take a good look at the animal kingdom and I was shocked to see how badly we treat so many animals. At 77, I've been a vegan for the past 30 years and I thank God every day that I am. I am most disturbed at how little the Catholic Church and Christian churches generally give to concern regarding animal suffering in their ministry. I wrote to 350 bishops in 2001 and only 10-13 responded. I feel that the very least they can do is to instruct that the priests give one sermon a year on compassion to animals. I am still waiting for that sermon. I also belong to Catholic Concern for Animals - founded in England in 1929. (They are on the internet) I recently sent a sample copy of their bi-monthly publication called the ARK to the 8 Catholic bishops of Ohio. Only ONE kindly responded. Somehow we have to reach the Christian teaching magisterium. There is next to nothing re animal concerns and compassion for them. They basically believe that animals are the lesser of God's creation and that gives us the right to do anything we want to them. Way wrong. We need to change their mindsets. The animals are God's first and He expects us to treat them compassionately.