Sunday, February 17, 2008
Just because one meatpacker has been forced to recall 143 million pounds of beef and pork in the wake of a cattle slaughter video posted on the Internet by the Humane Society of the United States doesn't mean we humans are entitled to a pass on the moral issues involved in the raising and killing of animals for food. While it's true that the Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co. of Chino, Calif., was the only slaughterhouse videotaped abusing cattle, practices employed at the plant likely are more typical than the industry admits. The fact that the recall included meat products back to 2006 demonstrates that the animal abuse was long-term, as Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said in a statement yesterday. Government officials are especially concerned because federal agencies purchased 37 million pounds of the beef for school lunch and other programs. The video also showed the plant using machines to force cows to slaughter that were took sick to move, even though such animals are not supposed to be included in the food supply because of the risk of "mad cow" disease. The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture said the risk of disease was slight and most of the meat had probably already been consumed. Many officials have called for increased government monitoring of the meat industry. But the abuse of food animals is a pervasive problem that goes beyond one industry, and one kind of animal. Cattle consume many times the amount of protein they produce, yet rain forests are being cleared to create more rangeland. If human beings are indeed smarter than animals, we should act like it.