USDA Stamp Isn't Worth the Carcass It's Printed On

| August 16, 2002 Issue

W hile McDonalds's recent concern about ethical animal treatment may have inspired hope for animal lovers, the real source of maltreatment--slaughterhouses--has been largely ignored. Gail A. Eisnitz in Satya reports the flaws and "staged inspections" in slaughterhouses that allow animal abuse to occur under the USDA's regulatory radar.

At a recent press conference, officials representing all 7,000 USDA meat inspectors stated that, in an effort to keep up production speeds, workers in American slaughterhouses regularly beat, skin, dismember, and scald fully conscious animals. Meat inspectors have failed to catch such abuses largely because of cover-ups in the slaughterhouses.

"Meat industry self-inspections, conducted on average once, perhaps twice, a year, do nothing more than stamp the Good Slaughterhousekeeping seal of approval on operations that supply the nation's fast food chains," Eisnitz writes. And even when the USDA does make an inspection, what the inspector views often has little to do with reality. "Meat packers are notorious for staging inspections," Eisnitz notes. "With announced audits, workers are warned days in advance, line speeds are reduced, and illegal activities are temporarily curtailed. During unscheduled visits, industry auditors are required to announce their presence at the plant's guard shack before they enter the operation."

Also, meat inspectors are usually absent from the areas where animals are prepared for slaughter, and inspect the final stages of meat processing, long after the animal is killed.
--Julie Madsen
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