Fri Nov 26 2004
THE former U.S. Department of Agriculture veterinarian for
one of the largest beef slaughterhouses in America says hamburger contains
a lot more than just ground beef.
"Hormones, antibiotics, hair, feces, cancers, tumours,"
says Dr. Lester Friedlander. "My plant in Pennsylvania processed 1,800
cows a day, 220 per hour. It also processed the highest number of downed
cows, 25 to 30 a day... There is no question. Some cancers end up in the
human food source."
Dr. Friedlander, who trained vets for the USDA and was a
decorated employee during his 10 years with the agency, has given
interviews to all major American TV networks. His repeated warnings about
the threats to human health from factory farming have never been denied by
his former employer. "They just keep saying 'no comment,'" he jokes.
He brought his crusade for public health and the humane
treatment of animals -- the best way, he says, of ensuring a safer food
supply for humans -- to Winnipeg earlier this week. Accompanying him was
B.C. physician Dr. Ray Kellosalmi, a founder of The Responsible Animal
Care Society (TRACS).
Corporate agribusiness and the almighty dollar are the
culprits, Dr. Friedlander continues. The speed of a slaughterhouse
assembly line is all that counts. Any delay costs about $5,000 a minute
and the pressure on veterinarians to look the other way is intense -- and
tacitly demanded by their employer, the federal government.
The current U.S. administration has altered regulations to
allow slaughtering plants to erect walls to prevent USDA veterinarians
from watching the killing line, Dr. Friedlander says. Dr. Kellosalmi
ratchets up the danger to human health a huge notch. Factory farming --
keeping thousands of animals in close confinement, necessitating high
levels of antibiotics -- will be the breeding ground for the next global
human pandemic, he warns. Already, the feeding of cattle offal to cattle
has spiked an enormous increase in brain-wasting BSE in beef herds and
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in humans.
Even more worrying is that Nobel Prize winner Dr. Stanley
Prussiner, who discovered prions, the aberrant protein that triggers BSE
and CJD, now believes prions may also cause Alzheimer's disease. Dr.
Kellosalmi says the number of Alzheimer's deaths in the U.S. has spiked
from 800 in 1979-80 to 50,000 in 2002.
Dr. Friedlander says the latest agribusiness profit
maximizer is to feed chicken feces and dried urine to cattle. "At first,
the cattle wouldn't eat it. So they added molasses. Cattle have a sweet
tooth like us, so they licked it up -- and ended up eating the feces stuck
The public must insist that the food safety regulatory
function be separated from the governmental agency promoting corporate
agribusiness, he continues. "We need a genuine, separate department of
The cost of today's factory farming in animal suffering is
incalculable. If the cattle-stunner misses his target, that animal can
still be alive when the butchering starts. Pigs can face another agony:
They can still be conscious when they are immersed in scalding water.
Horses are harder to kill because they are intelligent
athletic animals who "won't take pain sitting down," Dr. Friedlander
continues. Horses on the way to slaughter are forced to keep their heads
down the whole time they are in transit because they are transported in
the same aluminum double-deckers. The new U.S. Homeland Security Act,
fearing terrorist attacks on the food supply, has repealed former humane
transport regulations requiring livestock to be periodically unloaded and
fed and watered. Animals now must endure days without food and water at
temperatures ranging from 40 below to 40 above. For horses, those days add
another agony: the inability even to raise their heads.
Ferdinand, the Kentucky Derby winner in 1986, "ended up on
someone's dinner plate in Japan," Dr. Friedlander says. "We will do this
to an animal who brought our fathers across this continent, an animal who
is an integral part of our history."
Winnipeg Free Press
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