Saturday, March 22, 2008

Here's the beef

News that one of two men videotaped abusing cattle at a Chino, Calif., slaughterhouse last month will be jailed for six months and deported should not be the end of the story, but it probably will be. The man, Rafael Sanchez Herrera, pleaded guilty yesterday to three counts of animal abuse in San Bernardino County Superior Court and will serve six months in jail as part of a plea arrangement that includes deportation to Mexico. The videotape, shot by animal rights advocates, led to the largest beef recall — 143 million pounds — in U.S. history because of the risk of mad cow disease. Actually, the other worker at the Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. taped dragging and prodding apparently sick cattle to slaughter will have to be tried -- Herrera's former supervisor, Daniel Ugarte Navarro -- since he pleaded innocent to animal cruelty charges on Thursday, according to the Associated Press. Then, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will no doubt try to hang its own "mission accomplished" banner. But the incident demonstrated the fallacy of slaughterhouse regulation in the United States — there's too much going on for the government to watch everyone — and exposed the moral contradiction of factory-raising animals for food. These are issues that require a lot of investigation and soul-searching, and cannot be resolved merely with a short jail sentence or a boot across the border. When are we going to start that process? After all, does anyone think the slap on the wrist Scooter Libby got resolved the issue of Bush administration misconduct in the buildup to the Iraq war?

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