Saturday, February 2


Here's a good roundup of the latest developments in the downer-meat scandal. This one focuses on the revelation that HSUS went directly to prosecutors with the video and were asked not to go public yet and waited a month before releasing the clips on their site when no prosecution was forthcoming.

And the HSUS investigator I lauded - and still do - goes into detail about what was going on at Hallmark and how frequently.

Some choice bits:

* The USDA inspections came regularly at 12:30 and 6:30 so that workers had plenty of time for misdeeds such as those captured on video. This squares with what Howard Lyman and others have reported about the USDA's joke of an "inspection" process.

* The In-N-Out burger chain pledged to never use hallmark beef from this point forward.

* Geez, Wallace Shawn is getting to be a regular around here: "Anthony Magidow, general manager of the meat processing portion of Westland/Hallmark Meat Co., said Friday that he could not believe cows had been mistreated at the facility until the Washington Post reporter who broke the story showed him the video last Monday." Yeah, it was just too incredible to contemplate that these rogue operators might be flouting the rules, given that "one was a supervisor with 30 years of experience at the company and another had worked there for 12 years." Maybe you should get down to the kill floor a little more often and see what your most trusted employees are up to, Mr. Magidow, if you were, indeed, not aware such things were going on.

But here's the best part:

* "Magidow said there is no chance that any of the seven animals that were tormented in the videotape wound up in meat that went into the national school lunch program." OK, that's the view from guy who's unable to believe what's going on because he's out of the loop - how does that square with the actual eyewitness testimony? "The undercover investigator said many cows approved for slaughter later went down, and he frequently saw those animals enter the kill box. Workers never notified the USDA officer on site after animals went down, he said." Hmmmm. Too bad you're so unaware of what your longtime employees are up to, Mr. Magidow, 'cause it sure sounds like downed animals were made into meat - and if there was no notification, nobody knows which downers wound up where.

And all snark aside, this is what it comes down to. This clueless bozo thinks he can play games with peoples's lives (not to mention animals') by sitting there and declaring the animals didn't get made into meat. So let's consider this logically for a second... these longtime employees have a downed animal, and rather than use some of the equipment they have on hand to forcibly move cattle, they spend minutes of precious time (remember the profit margin depends on cattle coming into the slaughterhouse as rapidly and regularly as possible) taunting and torturing the animal to make it walk... and then once it's walking they just walk it out of the facility and into more paperwork, rather than send it to the kill floor and be done with it. How credulous are we supposed to be? Why would anyone let him get away with such patent nonsense when lives are at stake?

The USDA is still probing. It's a chance for them to come out swinging and show they're not just industry patsies by a) closing Hallmark completely and b) undertaking a thorough investigation of this practice throughout the industry. Or they could always go with c) declaring that this was all just a simple misunderstanding, isolated at this one location and on these particular dates when it just so happened that a camera was running, and everybody should go ahead and eat all the meat they possibly can. Wonder which the USDA will choose? Place your bets now.

Wednesday, January 30


A heartfelt shout-out to HSUS, with whom I don't always agree, but who know how to play this game - and are willing to do so. Specifically, whoever essentially took their life in their hands to infiltrate this place and get this powerful video is a certified hero, in my book.

Of course the 'game' is that the media helps fuel the outrage over this specific incident as though it's some crazy one-in-a-million event, but HSUS knows that's better than the outright, constant silence and denial that would reign otherwise.

Reuters isn't as bad as some of the coverage, but everywhere you see crap like this: "Besides the issue of animal abuse, the Humane Society believes the practice of using downer animals poses a risk to the nation's food supply." The next couple of sentences then explain exactly why the practice of using downer animals poses a risk to the nation's food supply, as a matter of simple fact, not some "belief" of HSUS's.

And though politicians are always promising to Get To The Bottom Of This while the spotlight's on, Dick Durbin at least sounds serious: "U.S. Senator Dick Durbin ... on Wednesday called for an immediate federal investigation into the safety of ground beef used in the school lunch program. "The treatment of animals in the video is appalling, but more than that it raises significant concerns about the safety of the food being served to our nation's children." Yes, it sure does, Dick. It sure does.

While the content of the video itself is obviously tragic, the crop of headlines it's generated is upon making its way to the mainstream media is oddly satisfying...

> Video Reveals Violations of Laws, Abuse of Cows
> Video of workers abusing cows raises food safety questions
> USDA Suspends Meat Company From Supplying Federal Programs
> Meat Plant Shut Down: Video Shows Animals Tortured
> Meat Company Fires 2 Over Cruelty to Livestock
> Sick Cattle Used to Feed School Children
> Bad Meat Delivered to Schools
> Beef pulled from school lunch program
> Waterboarding torture used on cattle
> HSUS video a new headache for packers, USDA

I'll be on the lookout for more...

UPDATE 2/5: There have been a whole slew, but ya gotta love Suspect beef: In your child’s school lunch?

Sunday, January 27


Interesting piece in Sunday's Times. Bittman ticks off the liabilities of the meat industry in the West and sees it as inevitable that the public will eventually figure out how extreme these liabilities are, and react.

    Perhaps the best hope for change lies in consumers’ becoming aware of the true costs of industrial meat production. “When you look at environmental problems in the U.S.,” says Professor Eshel, “nearly all of them have their source in food production and in particular meat production. And factory farming is ‘optimal’ only as long as degrading waterways is free. If dumping this stuff becomes costly — even if it simply carries a non-zero price tag — the entire structure of food production will change dramatically.
Well, a guy can hope, can't he?

Anyway, the last sentence of Bittman's bio "shirttail" is especially interesting - in that I wonder if this same piece would have run if they couldn't say that.