Feedstuffs on Factory Farm Cruelties

Feedstuffs, which is essentially the Wall Street Journal of agribusiness, today released an editorial regarding two high-profile factory farm cruelty investigations from this past month. What’s remarkable about this piece is that the editors put the blame solely on industry. The editors then demand accountability rather than the usual evasive excuses:

It’s important to understand that companies and producers can’t just say “bad apple” and move on because — to consumers who have seen these videos again and again — there are no bad apples anymore. The bad apple, to consumers now, is the industry.

But I think their analysis misses the source of the problem. They write:

There is just no excuse for clear violations, breakdowns and failures to happen and not be stopped before an activist group becomes involved and films a video. If it happens and continues that long, it is not the activist group that’s at fault. There is, rather, something wrong with supervision, and if there is something wrong with supervision, there is something wrong with management.

Many of the so-called “breakdowns” that are captured in these videos are not a result of worker incompetence or deliberate cruelty, but rather stem from the design of housing systems and handling procedures. These cruelties are baked-in to the system on an industrywide basis, and that’s why every video investigation I’ve ever witnessed has uniformly generated the same sorts of appalling images.

For instance, given the numbers of hens raised in a typical battery facility, the design of the cages, and the scarcity of employees, it’s inevitable that any video shot will reveal numerous examples of animals caught in their cages, or suffering from untreated medical conditions.

And here’s the key point: any company that tried to unilaterally restructure by seriously boosting welfare standards, while working within the conventional factory farming system, would face insurmountable cost disadvantages. They’d be unable to compete, and would be driven from business.

So while it’s convenient to blame management or supervision, and while there are certainly brutal and callous workers at some factory farms, that’s not the root of the problem. Factory farms are universally cruel by design, and these cruelties can’t be removed in any way other than for the entire industry to fundamentally restructure.

If industry wants to put an end to future cruelty videos, they’ve got to switch to systems with more space per animal, they’ve got to put an end to crowded transport and hurried slaughter, and they need to hire more workers to tend fewer animals. In short, the economics that keep animal products cheap are the same economics that guarantee a constant stream of videos shining a spotlight on the industry.

This is absolutely not a matter of bad supervision: the only way agribusiness can put an end to its worst cruelties is to spend vastly more money on each animal it raises, while putting a system in place where no company can cut corners. Until then, the videos will keep right on coming. (Via Shapiro.) Link.

Bull’s Slaughterhouse Escape Fails

Not every slaughterhouse escape has a happy ending. A bull bolted from a New Jersey slaughterhouse this morning, dragged police who tried to lasso him, and got ten blocks before being shot with a tranquilizer gun.

The animal was then sent back to the slaughterhouse. Link.

Eight New Food Celebrities Worth Avoiding

SF Weekly has put together a roundup of eight next-generation food celebrity assholes, with each person’s most annoying trait pointed out. It’s given me new reason to be glad I don’t have cable. Link.

Miller Beer’s Butter Burgers

Never a good idea, if you’re in the beverage industry, to deliberately associate your product with imagery many people — omnivores included — will find repulsive. (Via Daily Dish.)

The Proud Hunter

In case anyone wonders why some animal rights people turn into misanthropes. Photo one. Photo two.

USDA’s Veggie Fact Sheet Doesn’t Suck

Shocking yet great stuff here: the USDA has just released a one-page guide to vegetarianism that makes no obvious blunders. The document is actually helpful stuff. Sure, this very same content could have been produced by the American Dietetic Association back in the 1980s, but for the USDA to release something pertaining to vegetarianism without resorting to lies, scare tactics, and bad science breaks new ground for the agency.

Maybe it’s Obama, maybe it’s Pollan, maybe it’s Bittman — but whatever the reason, this is no longer your father’s USDA. (Via Shapiro.) Link [PDF].

Update: Nice blog entry about this from vegan dietician Virginia Messina. Link.

Meat Markets by the Case

I’ve got thirteen cartons of “Limited Advance Printing” Meat Markets — with their special butcher-paper style covers — left in storage, and I’ve decided to blow them out over the holidays. These are beautifully designed hardcover books printed to the highest standards.

There are two ways I could do this. I could book a dozen or so speaking events, or I could sell them by the case at my printing cost. I’ve decided to take the latter route, so that I can keep throwing all my energies into blogging and writing.

I’m continually hearing stories of people who’ve passed out copies of Meat Market to their friends, and have had the people in their lives make big changes in diet. So I’m going to make it cheap and easy for you to give all your friends and family a hardcover copy of my book for the holidays.

Just $149 gets you a box of 28 hardcovers, free shipping included. Plus, I’ll throw in a twenty minute phone call about anything you want to talk about: activism, veggie eating, the New York Giants, whatever. Such a deal, but hurry since I expect these thirteen boxes to go quickly.

Finally, if you’re with a veggie meetup group, these would make sensational low-cost door prizes. Shoot me an email if you’d like to grab a box.

Update: A reader writes: “Save me a case of books! I think I want to start giving out books for gifts. Since [Meat Market was] one of the reasons I decided to go vegan, it makes it that much more personal.”

Lawsuit Filed Against Westland-Hallmark Slaughterhouse Owners

Two years after an extremely disturbing HSUS video of the Westland-Hallmark slaughterhouse kicked off the largest beef recall in history, the Department of Justice and HSUS are filing a massive suit against the defunct plant’s owners. Lots of new dirt in this article: it appears that the images caught on videotape may be indicative of lawbreaking that had gone on for years. Link.

Coverage of Pollan’s Speech in Madison

Here’s some coverage of last night’s Michael Pollan speech at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. About 7000 people showed up to see the Omnivore’s Dilemma author, including some farmers wearing shirts emblazoned with “In Defense of Farming.”

The shirts should have read, “In Defense of Agribusiness.”

It sounds like, where sustainable farming is concerned, the genie is now out of the bottle in Wisconsin. The dialog that Pollan has begun will surely continue. Link.

On a related matter, the price of Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma has recently been slashed on Amazon.com to under $10, which is a heckuva deal for a 464 page book. There’s a lot I love and a lot I hate about this book, but it’s a fun read. And since millions of people have read it, it’s vital for activists to understand the arguments the book makes.