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Book and Video Review Guide

Moo-ving people toward compassionate living

The intent of this book and video review guide is to help us to live according to Kingdom standards which bring Heaven to earth.

by Gail A Eisnitz

Prometheus Books, New York, 1997


Are contaminated meat and poultry pouring out of federally inspected slaughterhouses throughout the country? Have federal laws governing slaughterhouses been violated in California, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Texas? What about your state? Many slaughterhouse regulations are intentionally unenforced, while death from foodborne illness have quadrupled in the United States in the past fifteen years, according to a new book by investigative journalist Gail Eisnitz. Eisnitz reveals her shocking findings in Slaughterhouse, the result of more than a decade of personal investigations and exclusive interviews with slaughterhouse workers - those on the front line where the dangerous abuses occur, as well as the federal inspectors who've been forced to turn a blind eye to near constant violations of humane and safety regulations.

Slaughterhouse represents the first time ever that slaughterhouse workers - individuals who have spent more than two million hours on the kill floor - have spoken publically about what's really taking place behind the closed doors of America's slaughterhouses. "What they reveal about animal cruelty, and the filthy, contaminated meat in 'federally inspected' slaughterhouses is scandalous."

Eisnitz, who has written about animal abuses for numerous top publications, and whose investigations have received national attention, has also spoken wit officials from the USDA, federal inspectors who are supposed to be protecting citizens from illnesses and animals from inhumane treatment. "Top officials of the 6,000-member federal meat inspectors' union go public in Slaughterhouse, confirming that violations of meat safety and humane slaughter regulations are standard and commonplace throughout the U.S. meat industry. "They explain that due to inspection policies developed in collusion with the meat industry, inspectors are virtually powerless to enforce slaughterhouse laws," Eisnitz said.

Yet Slaughterhouse is much more than a revealing account of animal abuse, more than an expose that could mandate a full congressional investigation of the cozy relationship between the meat industry and the USDA. This is the story of one woman's journey which began as an investigation into a single complaint at a Florida slaughterhouse and then turned into a tale of suspense and intrigue as she unearthed more startling information about the sources of meat and poultry Americans consume. This work follows Eisnitz as she becomes submerged in a slaughterhouse subculture, venturing deeper and deeper into the lives of the workers - as the stakes become higher in her David-and-Goliath-type battle, and as she takes on one of the nation's most powerful industries and tries to bring her shocking findings to the public at large.

Slaughterhouse takes us on a frightening but true journey from one slaughterhouse to another throughout the country. Along the way we encounter example after example of horrible mistreated animals; intolerable working conditions; lax standards; the slow, painful deaths of children as a result of eating E.coli-contaminated meat; and a dangerously corrupt federal agency that chooses to do nothing rather than risk the wrath of agribusiness.'

Review by Alex Hershaft, PhD, President, FARM:

In the midst of our high-tech, ostentatious, hedonistic lifestyle, among the dazzling monu-ments to history, art, religion, and commerce, there are the 'black boxes.' These are the biomedical research laboratories, factory farms, and slaughterhouses -- faceless compounds where society conducts its dirty business of abusing and killing innocent, feeling beings.

These are our Dachaus, our Buchenwalds, our Birkenaus. Like the good German burgers, we have a fair idea of what goes on there, but we don't want any reality checks. We rationalize that the killing has to be done and that it's done humanely. We fear that the truth would offend our sensibilities and perhaps force us to do something. It may even change our life.

Slaughterhouse by Gail Eisnitz of the Humane Farming Association is a gut- wrenching, chilling, yet carefully documented, expose of unspeakable torture and death in America's slaughterhouses. It explodes their popular image of obscure factories that turn dumb 'livestock' into sterile, cellophane-wrapped 'food' in the meat display case. The testimony of dozens of slaughterhouse workers and USDA inspectors pulls the curtain on abominable hellholes, where the last minutes of innocent, feeling, intelligent horses, cows, calves, pigs, and chickens are turned into interminable agony. And, yes, the book may well change your life. Here are some sample quotes (warning! extremely offensive material follows).

The agony starts when the animals are hauled over long distances under extreme crowding and harsh temperatures. Here is an account from a worker assigned to unloading pigs: "In the winter, some hogs come in all froze to the sides of the trucks. They tie a chain around them and jerk them off the walls of the truck, leave a chunk of hide and flesh behind. They might have a little bit of life left in them, but workers just throw them on the piles of dead ones. They'll die sooner or later." Once at the slaughterhouse, some animals are too injured to walk and others simply refuse to go quietly to their deaths. This is how the workers deal with it: "The preferred method of handling a cripple is to beat him to death with a lead pipe before he gets into the chute... If you get a hog in a chute that's had the shit prodded out of him, and has a heart attack or refuses to move, you take a meat hook and hook it into his bunghole (anus)...and a lot of times the meat hook rips out of the bunghole. I've seen thighs completely ripped open. I've also seen intestines come out."

And here is what awaits the animals on the kill floor. First, the testimony of a horse slaughterhouse worker: "You move so fast you don't have time to wait till a horse bleeds out. You skin him as he bleeds. Sometimes a horse's nose is down in the blood, blowing bubbles, and he suffocates."

Then another worker, on cow slaughter: "A lot of times the skinner finds a cow is still conscious when he slices the side of its head and it starts kicking wildly. If that happens, ... the skinner shoves a knife into the back of its head to cut the spinal cord." (This paralyzes the animal, but doesn't stop the pain of being skinned alive.) And still another, on calf slaughter: "To get done with them faster, we'd put eight or nine of them in the knocking box at a time... You start shooting, the calves are jumping, they're all piling up on top of each other. You don't know which ones got shot and which didn't... They're hung anyway, and down the line they go, wriggling and yelling"(to be slaughtered while fully conscious).

And on pig slaughter: "If the hog is conscious, ... it takes a long time for him to bleed out. These hogs get up to the scalding tank, hit the water, and start kicking and screaming... There's a rotating arm that pushes them under. No chance for them to get out. I am not sure if they burn to death before they drown, but it takes them a couple of minutes to stop thrashing."

The work takes a major emotional toll on the workers. Here's one worker's account: "I've taken out my job pressure and frustration on the animals, on my wife, ... and on myself, with heavy drinking." Then it gets a lot worse: "... with an animal who pisses you off, you don't just kill it. You ... blow the windpipe, make it drown in its own blood, split its nose... I would cut its eye out... and this hog would just scream. One time I ... sliced off the end of a hog's nose. The hog went crazy, so I took a handful of salt brine and ground it into his nose. Now that hog really went nuts..."

Safety is a major problem for workers who operate sharp instruments standing on a floor slippery with blood and gore, surrounded by conscious animals kicking for their lives, and pressed by a speeding slaughter line. Indeed, 36 percent incur serious injuries, making their work the most hazardous in America. Workers who are disabled and those who complain about working conditions are fired and frequently replaced by undocumented aliens. A few years ago, 25 workers were burned to death in a chicken slaughterhouse fire in Hamlet, NC, because management had locked the safety doors to prevent theft.

Here is a worker's account: "The conditions are very dangerous, and workers aren't well trained for the machinery. One machine has a whirring blade that catches people in it. Workers lose fingers. One woman's breast got caught in it and was torn off. Another's shirt got caught and her face was dragged into it."

Although Slaughterhouse focuses on animal cruelty and worker safety, it also addresses the issues of consumer health, including the failure of the federal inspection system. There is a poignant testimony from the mother of a child who ate a hamburger contaminated with E. coli: "After Brianne's second emergency surgery, surgeons left her open from her sternum to her pubic area to allow her swollen organs room to expand and prevent them from ripping her skin... Her heart ... bled from every pore. The toxins shut down Brianne's liver and pancreas. An insulin pump was started. Several times her skin turned black for weeks. She had a brain swell that the neurologists could not treat... They told us that Brianne was essentially brain-dead."

Slaughterhouse has some problems. In an attempt to reflect the timeline of the investigation, the presentation suffers from poor organization and considerable redundancy. But that's a bit like criticizing the testimony on my Holocaust experiences because of my Polish accent. The major problem is not with the content of the book, but with the publisher's cover design. The title and the headless carcasses pictured on the dust jacket effectively ensure that the book will not be read widely and that the shocking testimony inside will not get out to the consuming public.

And that's a pity. Because the countless animals whose agony the book documents so graphically deserve to have their story told. And because Slaughterhouse is the most powerful argument for meatless eating that I have ever read. Eisnitz' closing comment "Now you know, and you can help end these atrocities" should be fair warning. After nearly 25 years of work on farm animal issues, including leading several slaughterhouse demonstrations, I was deeply affected. Indeed, reading Slaughterhouse has changed my life.

Slaughterhouse is available from:
PO Box 30654
Bethesda, MD 20824

Humane Farming Association
PO Box 3577
San Rafael, CA 94912

...and most bookstores.

People who would like to help get this information to the general public should contact FARM and HFA.

| Table of Contents |

From Animal Rights Online
The calf photo on this page is from Farm Sanctuary with our thanks.

All of the beliefs and ideas presented by the writers of the reviewed publications may not necessarily represent all those held by The Mary T. and Frank L. Hoffman Family Foundation, but since they do seek to make this a kinder and more compassionate world, they have been included.

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