28 March 2004
Animal rendering is an unpleasant business. I know this
not only because of what I've read - rendering being a euphemism for
melting down dead animal parts to bonemeal and fat, which are then resold
for use in animal feed, rubber and cosmetic products.
I know it also because one of my neighbours is Jerry
Greenwalt, a decent enough guy who was effectively hounded out of his job
at the head of the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and
Control because animal rights activists were incensed at his sending
thousands of euthanised strays each year to a rendering company. They
plastered his house in fake animal blood and said he was no better than a
Nazi sending Jews to Auschwitz.
But Greenwalt's part of the story barely scratches the
surface of the overall gruesomeness. It turns out that the company, West
Coast Rendering, was until last year sending hundreds of tons of rendered
dead pet to Asia, where the remains were used to feed farm salmon and
shrimp. Quite a bit of this then recrossed the Pacific for human
consumption - not a pleasant thought. But it gets worse.
As of December, the rendered dog and cat trade ceased
overnight. Why? Because, according to the US Department of Agriculture,
dogs and cats are officially defined for export purposes as "beef
byproducts." And December was the month when a single case of mad cow
disease was discovered in Washington State, closing down America's beef
export markets. You may not have thought of your friendly neighbourhood
furball as a miniature cow, but that's how the US government views it.
Creepy - and the upshot is even creepier.
Unable to sell its dead pet parts, West Coast Rendering is
simply stockpiling them in its warehouse in Vernon, an industrial park in
south LA. Since Los Angeles is the stray pet capital of the US, the
numbers are daunting, with 600 tons of dog and cat piled up so far. The
company has room for 1,200 tons in all, after which, if the export ban is
not lifted, it will have to find a way to dispose of the animals -
assuming it can stay in business.
LA's landfills don't accept dead pets, which leaves only
the option of burning them - a smelly, smog-inducing, not to say
disstinctly queasy process. Another round of Auschwitz epithet-hurling,
one senses, cannot be far off.
Code Pink, the ad hoc group of feminist campaigners at the
forefront of the anti-Iraq war movement, launched their own election-year
campaign last week with a vow to "pink-slip" George Bush in November
(America's equivalent to finding a P45 in your pay packet). In a Polish
restaurant near the beach in Santa Monica, Code Pink founder and leader
Jodi Evans rolled out a whole roster of civil disobedience activities over
the next few months, including a plan to gatecrash a Halliburton
shareholders' meeting to highlight war profiteering in Iraq and a picket
of 24 Hummer dealerships - purveyors of the least fuel-efficient vehicle
on the roads - to mark Earth Day next month. As Ms Evans put it: "Men are
dying in their Hummers in Iraq so you can drive around in yours."
The launch party featured a line-up of tasteful female
singer-songwriters, among them Michelle Shocked, the Texas rocker turned
religious revivalist who has previously appeared at Code Pink events in a
Stars and Stripes burqa. The crowd lapped her up.
Meanwhile, Santa Monica is doling out more bad news for
smokers, banning cigarettes from its much-frequented wide sandy beach and
from all but a couple of designated areas on its pier. It's already
impossible to light up in restaurants or bars in Santa Monica - or, for
that matter, anywhere else in California - and smokers are becoming a rare
species. They can still smoke at home, or in their cars. For how long,
Go on to Rescued Cat
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