STOP ANIMAL CRUELTY Endangering Life: Working at a Slaughterhouse - P1/2    
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The images in the following program are very sensitive and may be as disturbing to viewers as they were to us. However, we have to show the truth about cruelty to animals.

Conscientious viewers, this is Stop Animal Cruelty on Supreme Master Television. This week in the first of a two-part series on abattoir employees, we’ll look closely at the slaughterhouse, one of the most dangerous workplaces on Earth, and examine how meat consumption means our fellow human beings laboring at these sites are subjected daily to extremely traumatic experiences that damage their physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being.

In 1906, meat sales in the US dropped by 50% after publication of “The Jungle” by journalist Upton Sinclair. The novel, which depicts the shocking labor conditions of the era’s slaughtering and meat processing industries, led then US President Theodore Roosevelt to institute a series of industry-wide legislative reforms.

Over a century has passed since the release of Sinclair’s book and US citizens are now eating more meat per person than they were 100 years ago. The gruesome picture painted in “The Jungle” has been mostly forgotten, and the chilling story behind the pallid flesh wrapped in plastic at supermarkets remains largely a mystery to the public.

In 1997, the meat industry’s dark secrets were again unveiled by another American author, Gail A. Eisnitz, chief investigator for the Humane Farming Association. In her award-winning book “Slaughterhouse,” Ms. Eisnitz describes the horrendous treatment of animals, the disease-ridden products and the appallingly filthy, dangerous work environment of the industry’s mass-killing facilities.

Her report is based on interviews with a large number of former slaughterhouse workers, whose experience in such workplaces amounts to more than two-million hours. More and more former meat industry employees are coming forward to testify as to what’s really happening behind the concrete walls of these places of death.

For example, the late Virgil Butler, who worked at a large US poultry slaughterhouse, quit and became a vegan advocate for animal and human rights, publicly exposing the obscene conditions of these murder houses where workers have to butcher as many as 80,000 chickens in an eight-hour shift.

I was born in a small rural community and grew up in small rural community in Southern Ozarks in northwestern Arkansas. I started catching chickens when I was fourteen years old. I caught chickens all the way through my high school years.

Over the decades, the meat industry in the US and elsewhere has consolidated and been in pursuit of ever higher profits. The result is extreme animal abuse and worker injuries being the norm as an utterly disgusting product contaminated with feces, pus, pathogens, chemicals, and drugs is mass produced.

They work day in and day out, shackling animals, sending them to their deaths and slitting their throats. It’s a violent place to work and is not only physically dangerous and demanding but it’s also emotionally damaging for the workers themselves.

So we see that slaughterhouses are not only one of the most dangerous jobs in the nation to work at, but many of the people that are working there suffer themselves from having to witness so much cruelty and violence on a regular basis.

Injuries and illness are so numerous that it would be hard for me to describe them all. I have arthritis in my hip my knee, my wrist, my knuckles, my elbows, my shoulders, and that’s not at all uncommon.

Mr. Butler’s account does not describe an isolated case. In the Human Rights Watch report, “Blood, Sweat and Fear: Workers’ Rights in US Meat and Poultry Plants,” almost all the slaughterhouse workers interviewed suffered severe injuries “reflected in their scars, swellings, rashes, amputations, blindness, or other afflictions.”

In the book “Slaughterhouse,” Ed Van Winkle, a former abattoir employee recalls the following regarding a large scar on his neck:
“I got cut across my jugular. I was scared, scared to death. Stitches go with the territory in a packing house. I can live with stitches. I can live with getting cut once in a while. What I can’t live with is cutting my own throat.”

According to the US Department of Labor, one out of every three slaughterhouse workers is plagued with work-related injuries or ailments. The actual rate is believed to be even higher, because the workers are afraid of losing their jobs if they report their cases. And even if they do, their claims are largely dismissed by management in order to reduce insurance costs.

One major factor in the high incidence of slaughterhouse injuries is fast line speed. Each year, 60-billion animals are slaughtered worldwide for meat. In the US alone, 270 chickens are massacred every second. To kill the innocent at such a pace, workers are required to slaughter more and more animals in less and less time.

In large facilities, a sickening 400 cows, 1,100 pigs or 8,400 chickens are killed every hour. To achieve these levels of death, workers have to cut a staggering number of animals each minute on lines that never slow down.

As recorded in a 2009 Human Rights Watch report, a worker from a North Carolina, USA pig slaughterhouse states,
“The line is so fast, there is no time to sharpen the knife. The knife gets dull and you have to cut harder. That’s when it really starts to hurt, and that’s when you cut yourself.”

And a former slaughterhouse nurse commented, “I could always tell the line speed by the number of people with lacerations coming into my office.”

After these messages, Stop Animal Cruelty will continue with more on the profoundly dangerous working conditions in slaughterhouses. Please stay tuned to Supreme Master Television.

You’re watching Stop Animal Cruelty on Supreme Master Television. Our topic today is the brutal working environment of slaughterhouses. As the line speed becomes faster and faster in abattoirs, the animals are often inadequately stunned or bled before being passed on to the next station.

To keep the line moving, the employees are forced to handle or cut on fully conscious animals thrashing about for their lives. Many worker injuries are caused by jerking cows or pigs hung by their hind legs, bleeding from cut throats, vomiting, urinating and defecating out of extreme pain and fear.

In the case of poultry, the amperage of electrical stunners is simply not set high enough to knock the animals unconscious, but just enough to loosen the muscles that hold their feathers in place. The savage goal is to let the feathers fall off easily without bursting the blood vessels, which creates the “undesirable” color of blood in the meat. The fully conscious birds thus kick, bite or scratch the workers who hang them on the moving racks until their throats are slashed by motorized blades.

We had 92,000, 92,000 chickens to run in eight hours. Well, here we are, we started out, at probably a half-hour into the shift, the machine broke down, the killing machine broke down.

Well, instead of stopping the plant, doing the maintenance, putting the machine back online they sent two guys in there to drag the machine out and a guy standing there with the knife Aaron Harris had to kill for the rest of the night without the benefit of the machine, which is try to kill a hundred-and- eighty-six chickens a minute without missing any.

It’s not uncommon for a line worker to repeat the same action every other second, whether it’s hoisting live animals or cutting carcasses. Due to the highly repetitive nature of the job, stress injuries afflict slaughterhouse employees.

A former poultry worker relates, “I hung the live birds on the line. Grab, reach, jerk, lift. Without stopping for hours every day … after a time, you see what happens. Your arms stick out and your hands are frozen. Look at me now. I’m twenty-two years old, and I feel like an old man.”

Serious injuries also arise from workers slipping on concrete floors awash with blood, urine, vomit and other body fluids. One slaughterhouse employee recalls, “I slipped on remnants on the floor. I hurt my back, my hips and my leg. … I could hardly walk. The company doctor told me I was Okay and to go back to work. But I couldn’t stand the pain. I went out on sick leave. The company fired me for missing time.”

The equipment and workspace of a slaughterhouse are coated with animal blood, remnants of body parts, pus and even tape worms. After one investigation, Joe Fahey a former food processing representative of a union called the International Brotherhood of Teamsters said, “People were crying, talking about being covered in diarrhea the entire shift because the supervisor wouldn’t let them go to the bathroom.”

Contaminants such as the pathogens from sick animals are deadly. Livestock sold to slaughterhouses often carry oozing wounds, pneumonia and cancers. Disease agents such as bacteria or viruses can be transmitted to the employees through animal feces, vomit, blood, direct contact or polluted air.

A study conducted by Professor Ellen Kovner Silbergeld, Ph.D. of the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, USA revealed that 50% of poultry workers are infected with the bacteria Campylobacter jejuni, which is the second leading cause of gastrointestinal disease in the US. This is not the end of the story.

Because of the massive overuse of antibiotics such as penicillin and tetracycline in animal feed, some animal-borne bacteria are antibiotic-resistant super-germs, like Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus or MRSA which render traditional medicines useless. These deadly pathogens can be passed on to workers’ family members and further into the community.

Slaughterhouse environments are full of allergy-causing agents, which can lead to flare-ups, asthma and even death. In an interview with Human Rights Watch, one slaughterhouse employee said,
“I am sick at work with a cold and breathing problems … I have red rashes on my arms and hands, and the skin between my fingers is dry and cracked. I think I have an allergic reaction to hogs. But I’m afraid to say anything about this because I’m afraid they will fire me.”

Driven by greed to maximize profits, slaughterhouse owners use poisonous chemicals such as carbon monoxide to make their meat products look fresh and ammonia to kill the millions of microbes in meat. Exposure to these substances poses a major health threat to workers, as numerous incidences of ammonia leaks have been reported in meat packing plants.

One such incident occurred in August 2010 at a chicken-freezing plant in Theodore, Alabama, USA, leaving 130 workers requiring treatment and seven under intensive care.

Because of meat consumption, abattoir workers toil in hazardous, violent environments, and their deep suffering, as well as that of the gentle animals that are mass murdered, are imprinted on every package of meat sold in the market. May the day soon come when we all adopt the organic vegan diet so the killing finally ends and our fellow brethren no longer work under these horrific conditions for the sake of meat on our plates!

Concerned viewers, please join us next week on Stop Animal Cruelty for the conclusion of our two-part series on the slaughterhouse workplace. Thank you for watching our program today. Enlightening Entertainment is up next after Noteworthy News. May we have compassionate hearts and love all beings on our planet.
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