“In the wake of the HSUS Chino slaughterhouse investigation, several members of Congress are now calling for video cameras to be installed at slaughterhouses,”
Video cameras are an excellent, economical supplement or alternative to hiring, training, and staffing more USDA inspectors. Video cameras would help create more transparency in animal agriculture and would likely result in better accordance with the laws protecting human health and preventing animal cruelty.
Transparency is a really good first step to improving farm animals’ lives. I’ve mentioned this before at Vegan Soapbox: Truth in Advertising.
The USDA inspectors apparently aren’t doing their jobs. They’re either over-worked, lazy, incompetent, or strong-armed into lying. This was evidenced by the HSUS undercover video, many other pro-animal organizations’ undercover work, and by recent news from the Associated Press in “Union head claims USDA tried to intimidate employees“:
The head of the union that represents 6,000 federal food inspectors told a congressional committee Thursday that the Agriculture Department tried to intimidate him and other employees who reported violations of regulations [...]
Union chief Stan Painter said that following a mad cow disease scare in 2003, he told superiors that new food safety regulations for slaughtered cattle were not being uniformly enforced. Painter said he was told to drop the matter, and when he didn’t, was grilled by department officials and then placed on disciplinary investigative status.
[...] He said that supervisors tell workers to “let the system work” rather than cite slaughterhouses for violations.
Another article in the LA Times confirms that there are not enough inspectors to do adequate inspections:
Stan Painter [...] said inspectors were swamped with work. Painter said that video monitoring would help deter slaughterhouses from mistreating animals but that hiring more inspectors was even more vital.
“The shortages are putting consumers at risk because there are not enough of us to do our job,” he said.
Lisa Shames, a congressional researcher with the Government Accountability Office, said food inspectors at plants she recently visited “told us they were stretched thin.”
But the USDA is whining that video cameras would be too expensive. We know that’s a lie. Virtually every business owner has video cameras these days and the going rates for video camera installation are reasonable, particularly when compared with the cost of recalled meat to the economy and to public health.
The reason reason they don’t want video cameras is because transparency in animal agriculture would likely hurt business. Hence, this NY Times quote from Janet Riley, a vice president of the national trade association, which represents meat and poultry “processors”:
“The fact is, you could be absolutely, 100 percent in perfect compliance [of the law], but if someone is not used to seeing the slaughter process it would be unsettling.”
Indeed, slaughter is unsettling. As Paul McCartney said, “If slaughterhouses had glass walls we would all be vegetarian.”
But if legal slaughter is unsettling, what is egregiously cruel slaughter? Well, that’s business as usual. And it won’t stop until there is transparency in the industry. More laws regulating animal agriculture won’t help unless those laws are enforced. And currently, the laws already on the books are not enforced. True transparency is needed.
So, let’s get video cameras in the slaughterhouses!
Erik Marcus is compiling a list of interested persons willing to help work on making this happen. Go here to listen to the podcast and contact him.
In the meantime, please spread the word. Send the links below to your friends and family. Submit these stories to StumbleUpon, Digg, and other social bookmarking systems. Post about this on your blog, MySpace, or Facebook. (This post is not copyrighted and you have permission to reproduce it in its entirety.)
Update: Last but certainly not least, you can sign the petition here.
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