As the Senate debates the farm bill, which contains an entire title that would limit the power of the industrial-meat giants, you might think the industry would be on its best behavior, trying to act mellow while its lobbyists sort things out on the Hill.
And yet the industry is currently churning out outrages as if they were sausage: hence “Meat wagon,” a new regular feature.
Here we go:
• The animal-rights group PETA has gotten hold of a video showing systematic cruelty to hogs in a CAFO owned by Smithfield Foods, the world’s biggest hog producer and processor. Here’s a sample of what PETA found:
Workers dragged injured pigs out of the facility by their snouts, ears, and legs, before killing them with a captive-bolt gun.
Charming. Caught on tape, sheepish Smithfield is launching an investigation.
• The lot of workers in Smithfield’s slaughterhouses is surely better than that of hogs in its confinement pens — but it ain’t rosy.
In 2005, Human Rights Watch — which usually finds its services most useful in dictatorships and war-torn regions — saw fit to issue a blistering report on the wretched working conditions in the meatpacking industry.
Things have changed little since 2005 — but the efforts to unionize the industry have ramped up. Smithfield has bitterly resisted efforts to organize its shop floor, and is now striking back with ham-fisted tactics.
Smithfield has sued the United Food and Commercial Workers under RICO, a federal statute designed to fight organized crime. The legal strategy will likely fail — Smithfield will have to prove that the union has some how extorted money from the industrial-meat giant.
But it will be effective at enmeshing the union in a pricy legal battle — and delay the day when Smithfield will have to deal with an organized workforce.
• At a hog slaughterhouse in Austin, Minn., operated by a company called Quality Pork Processors, workers are coming down with a rare and weird nerve disorder.
All of them work at the plant’s “head table,” AP reports, where pig brains are forced out of skulls with compressed air.
Here is AP:
Over eight months from last December through July, 11 workers at the plant — all of them employed at the head table — developed numbness, tingling, or other neurological symptoms, and some scientists suspect inhaled airborne brain matter may have somehow triggered the illnesses.