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Film helped galvanize first humane US slaughter law 50 years ago

Film helped galvanize first humane US slaughter law 50 years ago

A film showing slaughterhouse workers abusing animals spurs demands for the U.S. government to put a stop to the abuse. That happened this year _ and also a half-century ago, when a Seattle animal rights activist filmed hogs being mistreated at a Washington state slaughterhouse.
The 1950s film helped trigger a fierce debate among lawmakers over whether animals deserved some federal protection in their final moments. Congress ultimately decided that they did, and 50 years ago lawmakers passed the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, which required that meat purchased by the federal government come from processors that humanely kill their livestock.
Now Congress is taking another look at slaughterhouse practices following undercover video filmed by the Humane Society of the United States. The video showed workers at Westland/Hallmark Meat Co. in Californiaz, shoving and kicking sick, crippled cattle, forcing them to stand using electric prods, forklifts and water hoses. In response, the Agriculture Department shut down the plant, citing "egregious violations of humane handling regulations." Two fired workers have been charged with crimes.
The department has since recalled 143 million pounds (65 million kilograms) of the company's beef _ the largest in U.S. history _ because Westland/Hallmark didn't prevent "downer" cattle from entering the food supply. Downers, those too sick or injured to walk, pose a greater risk of illnesses such as mad cow disease.
In response to the beef recall, Congress is again holding hearings, starting this Thursday in the Senate Appropriations agriculture subcommittee, which has oversight of the USDA budget.
Fifty years ago, the hog slaughter film by Arthur P. Redman similarly galvanized animal welfare advocates to pursue legislation. The film was shown at a congressional hearing in 1957 and Congress passed the landmark humane slaughter law the following year.
Sen. Herb Kohl, a Democrzt, will hold a hearing on Thursday; his House counterpart, Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro, a Democrat, has called for the Agriculture Department to be stripped of its oversight of food safety, and plans her own hearings next month.
Meanwhile, animal welfare advocates are using the California slaughterhouse incident to help spur calls for more inspectors, as well as legislation including a total ban on downer cattle being slaughtered for food. In 2003, the USDA announced such a ban, but last year, in finalizing it, the department said cattle that get injured after they pass inspection will be re-evaluated to determine whether they are eligible for slaughter.
"You could have cows tormented to stand up momentarily to pass inspection, and then go down," said Paul Shapiro, senior director of the Humane Society's factory farming campaign. "We want that loophole to be closed. Crippled cattle should be humanely euthanized _ not forced to get up to march to their own slaughter."


Updated : 2021-04-18 22:18 GMT+08:00