Upton Sinclair on downer cows
Regarding the record-breaking meat recall in California, involving an industrial slaughterhouse that used torture to compel downer (i.e, too sick to walk) cows to slaughter, I caught word of a passage from Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle (published exactly 102 years ago Monday).
Forcing downer cows through the kill line and into the food supply has a long and ignominious history. (The practice of mixing meat from downer cows into the food supply, of course, played a heavy role in the U.K.’s mad-cow scares in the 1990s.)
Here is Sinclair:
[T]he creatures were prisoned, each in a separate pen, by gates that shut, leaving them no room to turn around; and while they stood bellowing and plunging, over the top of the pen there leaned one of the ‘knockers,’ armed with a sledge-hammer, and watching for a chance to deal a blow.
It was late, almost dark … and the government inspectors had all gone, and there were only a dozen or two of men on the floor. That day they had killed about four thousand cattle, and these cattle had come in freight trains from far states, and some of them had got hurt. There were some with broken legs, and some with gored sides; there were some that had died, from what cause no one could say; and they were all to be disposed of, here in darkness and silence. “Downers,” the men called them; and the packing-house had a special elevator upon which they were raised to the killing-beds, where the gang proceeded to handle them, with an air of businesslike nonchalance which said plainer than any words that it was a matter of everyday routine. It took a couple of hours to get them out of the way.
(I’m quoting Sinclair from an article published in 2006 by the Humane Society of the United States, the group that exposed the recent downer-cow scandal in California. Special tip of the hat to Holley Atkinson of the Comfood listserv.)