factory farming: slaughter
Approximately 10 billion land animals are slaughtered for food every year in the United States. Therefore, slaughterhouses are a necessary part of the factory farming industry. Facilities are often located in low-income communities and might be the only employer for miles. This line of work has an extremely high injury rate and workers receive low pay. The line speeds at which the animals move has increased 800% over the past cnetury and the average worker might kill 2,000 animals per day. The employee turnover rate is usually 100-150% annually. Employees are often illegal immigrants, non-English speakers and have no other job options, so workers rarely speak out against workplace health, safety or animal welfare violations.
The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act of 1958 requires all cattle, pigs, sheep and horses to be rendered insensible to pain before slaughter. It has no bearing on how the animals are treated during the course of their lives, and it is not subjected to any meaningful oversight or enforcement. Birds are not included in its protection. There is no law that requires the humane slaughter of the 9 billion chickens and turkeys that are slaughtered each year. In 1978 USDA inspectors were given the authority to shut down the slaughter line when abuses were witnessed, though this rarely happens. It costs the industry too much time, and inspectors often feel pressured or threatened to ignore violations. Therefore, slaughterhouses are regularly in violation of this act. Some violations are a result of workers’ precision suffering from unrealistic production speeds. Other abuses are deliberate acts of cruelty, and have been widely documented by audits and by workers with undercover cameras.
Half of the cattle in the U.S. are processed through facilities designed by Temple Grandin, a leader in animal welfare and humane livestock handling. Grandin estimates only 25% of the larger facilities can render their cattle unconscious in a single blow. When she first started auditing, she documented “deliberate acts of cruelty occurring on a regular basis at 32% of the facilities” she visited. Recent audits conducted by the National Chicken Council were reviewed by Grandin and found that 26% should have automatically failed for severe abuses, yet the industry passed them all. In Grandin’s most recent audits of beef slaughter 25% failed automatically. A majority of slaughter facilities don’t open their doors to audits at all. Some large fast food chains have recently begun demanding audits of facilities they work with as a result of targeting by animal rights groups, and this has resulted in some modest improvements.
Note - This video contains graphic footage of cows in an undercover investigation of a California slaughterhouse. Teens under 18 years of age need parental permission before viewing. It should not be watched by children.