Real murder: what happens at a slaughterhouse

Following on from my blog post about the "murder" at the Nanakuli animal shelter, here is an account from Wikipedia of the mass murder process at a slaughterhouse (this is not for the faint of heart):

The slaughterhouse process differs by species and region and may be controlled by civil law as well as religious laws such as Kosher and Halal laws. A typical procedure follows:

Cattle (mostly steers and heifers, some cows, and even fewer bulls) are received by truck or rail from a ranch, farm, or feedlot.

Cattle are herded into holding pens.

Cattle are rendered unconscious by applying an electric shock of 300 volts and 2 amps to the back of the head, effectively stunning the animal,[8] or by use of a captive bolt pistol to the front of the cow's head (a pneumatic or cartridge-fired captive bolt). Swine can be rendered unconscious by CO2/inert gas stunning. (This step is prohibited under strict application of Halal and Kashrut codes.)
Animals are hung upside down by one of their hind legs on the processing line.

The carotid artery and jugular vein are severed with a knife, blood drains, causing death through exsanguination.

The head is removed, as well as front and rear feet. Prior to hide removal, care is taken to cut around the digestive tract to prevent fecal contamination later in the process.

The hide/skin is removed by down pullers, side pullers and fisting off the pelt (sheep and goats). Hides can also be removed by laying the carcass on a cradle and skinning with a knife.

The internal organs are removed and inspected for internal parasites and signs of disease. The viscera are separated for inspection from the heart and lungs, referred to as the "pluck." Livers are separated for inspection, tongues are dropped or removed from the head, and the head is sent down the line on the head hooks or head racks for inspection of the lymph nodes for signs of systemic disease.

The carcass is inspected by a government inspector for safety. (This inspection is performed by the Food Safety Inspection Service in the U.S., and CFIA in Canada.)

Carcasses are subjected to intervention to reduce levels of bacteria. Common interventions are steam, hot water, and organic acids.

Carcasses (typically cattle and sheep only) can be electrically stimulated to improve meat tenderness.

Carcasses are chilled to prevent the growth of microorganisms and to reduce meat deterioration while the meat awaits distribution.
The chilled carcass is broken down into primals and subprimals for boxed meat unless customer specifies for intact sides of meat. Beef and horse carcasses are always split in half and then quartered, pork is split into sides only and goat/veal/mutton and lamb is left whole

The remaining carcass may be further processed to extract any residual traces of meat, usually termed mechanically recovered meat, which may be used for human or animal consumption.

Waste materials such as bone, lard or tallow, are sent to a rendering plant. Also, lard and tallow can be used for the production of biodiesel or heating oil.

The waste water, consisting of blood and fecal matter, generated by the slaughtering process is sent to a waste water treatment plant.
The meat is transported to distribution centers that then distribute to retail markets.

Your Health and the Environment

Photo: Cows Standing in a Pasture

What we eat can cause or worsen diet-related illnesses and thus has a significant impact on our quality of life.

Virtually all the major scientific and medical institutions in the world agree that the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke, obesity, osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, cancer, and diabetes, among other diseases is linked to a meat-based diet consisting of highly processed foods laden with fats and artificial ingredients. These institutions further agree that the risk is greatly reduced by adopting a healthy low-fat, high-fiber diet.

So what is the prescription for a healthier body, both now and in the future? Simple. Eat less meat, or even better give it up completely, as meat has all too often been blamed for the above mentioned diet-related illnesses, and replace it with an all-vegetarian diet. This makes sense for a number of reasons.

At the most basic level, meat, fish, and eggs have high cholesterol. Their wide-scale consumption has contributed to the dramatic increase in the number of premature deaths from heart disease, strokes and cancer; and meat-based diets contribute to a host of other health-related problems.

In contrast, a plant-based diet is generally low in fat, including saturated fat, which can help reduce blood cholesterol levels and the risk for heart disease. Flesh foods, on the other hand, are high in saturated fat, which is the biggest contributor to blood clotting, which can result in heart disease and stroke.

And, plant-based proteins have zero cholesterol. High cholesterol is one of the major risk factors for developing heart disease. Meat is high in LDL (bad cholesterol) and the more LDL you have in your bloodstream, the more likely plaque (atherosclerosis) will form in your arteries.

A meat-based diet is an extremely wasteful use of the earth's limited resources, as it requires many times more resources to create a pound of animal flesh than a pound of vegetarian foods. Whether it's unchecked air or water pollution, soil erosion, or the overuse of resources, raising animals for food is wreaking havoc on the Earth.

And finally, from an ethical point of view, eating animals causes extreme pain and suffering to billions of innocent creatures. Given the suffering these animals endure, and given that all our nutritional needs can easily be satisfied without eating these animals, vegetarianism is morally required. The fact is that eating animals is unnecessary because nature has provided ample vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes and dairy products for human sustenance. Therefore, the slaughter of animals for food is a luxury rather than a necessity and is morally wrong

The single most important thing you can do for your health, the environment, and the innocent animals is to adopt a vegetarian diet.

Chopping up birds

In the Island Life section of the Honolulu Advertiser today (Wednesday, April 14, 2010) the main story was entitled "Buying the whole bird", which was about how to "enjoy value, freshness, versatility by learning to cut apart a chicken."  It was accompanied by pictures with captions like, "1. start with a fresh whole chicken. 2. After folding the wing tips back, cut in to remove the leg, breast.  3. With the chicken upright, cut the "oyster" (1) from the chicken. 4. Pop off the hip joint on the chicken and cut off the leg piece.  5. Do the same on the other side.  6. Cut down the center, separating the breast meat, down the ribs.  Breasts may be boned out or left on the bone for the deeper flavor."  

And this is just the captions to the pictures, wait until you read the article where there are wonderful statements like, "Why bother with the whole when what you want is the parts?"  "Whole birds are versatile, they can be roasted in their entirety or cut to culinary whimsy."  "A single whole chicken yields two breast portions for pan roasting, dark meat for pot pies, bones and other trimmings for stock and fat, skimmed from the stock and used to make gravy for the pot pies.  Giblets (2) are frozen until enough have accumulated to make liver pate or other special dishes."  "We use every bit of the chicken."  

Ok, sheez, ewww, this is one of the most brutal, callous, and disgusting articles I have ever read.  What are we doing as a society that we don't think twice about chopping up a bird, a chicken, and eating it?  And not just its flesh, but its liver, its fat, its heart, its "oyster", and anything and everything else we can.  What is going on that people can become so hardened to the reality of what they are doing that they don't even think twice about the fact that they are chopping up a bird, chopping off its "breasts", and eating them?  We not only don't think twice about it, it is actually extolled and glorified as a great thing to do.  Talk about glorying in our shame.

Mark Fergusson

Chief Vegetarian Officer

Footnotes: 
  1. According to Wikipedia: Oysters are two small, round pieces of dark meat on the back of poultry near the thigh. Some regard the "oyster meat" to be the most flavorful and tender part of the bird, while others dislike the taste and texture.
  2. According to Wikipedia: Giblets are the edible offal of a fowl, typically including the heart, gizzard, liver, and other visceral organs: the term is culinary usage only.

Danish dolphin slaughter, part 2

Photo: Bay Turned Red During Dolphin Slaughter

Caitlin Rose made some great comments on my post about the dolphin slaughter in the Faroe Islands. She brought up several excellent points, the first being that the Faroese Islanders said: "… most people in the modern world have become so far removed from the harsh realities of animal food production that they have formulated unrealistic notions of how food actually gets to their tables.”

They are essentially saying, “hey, what we are doing to these dolphins is no different than what you are doing in your slaughterhouses, we kill the dolphins in public and are thus subject to international scrutiny, and you kill the cows away from public view, and have created in the minds of consumers some fantasy about what meat really is.” How true is that? Who can argue with it? In the movie Food, Inc. the filmmaker showed how the marketers of meat label their products (dead bodies) with pictures of smiling happy cows or pigs, eating grass, under the sun. Whereas the reality is that most farm animals are raised in hellishly unnatural conditions on factory farms, are cruelly mistreated, and then brutally slaughtered, hacked into pieces with chainsaws, body parts put through huge grinders and turned into hamburger, etc. etc. (you get the picture - I can save the gory details for future blogs).

If the slaughterhouses had glass walls, allowing what goes on there to be easily seen, and thus people saw how horribly the animals suffer before and during slaughter, how bloody and degrading it is, many of us would likely give up meat-eating. However, the fact is, most people just don’t want to know what is going on at the slaughterhouses, they don’t want to think about it, they are hardened to it, and see it as the natural order of things that people eat cows. In the Faroe Islands they see it as the natural order of things that dolphins get slaughtered and eaten.

Another related point Caitlin made is that conservation organizations do not consider the Islanders to have valid reasons for the continuation of the dolphin slaughter. The conservationists argue that modern day Faroe Islanders have ample food and do not require whale meat to survive as they did in earlier centuries. So what the conservationists are saying is, “hey, you Faroe Islanders, you don’t need to eat dolphins, you can eat cows and pigs instead.” Many of the people protesting and complaining about the slaughter of the dolphins are likely munching on a Big Mac while they are signing online petitions to stop the dolphin slaughter.

Caitlin also referred to “cultural tradition”, i.e. the Faroe Islanders claim that killing the dolphins is a cultural tradition. So the question is, because something is a cultural tradition does that make it okay to do? If not, why not? This is a big issue, all over the world, including Hawaii, people argue that if it is a cultural tradition to kill animals then it is ok, in fact it is to be honored, respected, and encouraged. The Faroe Islanders claim it is a cultural tradition to kill dolphins, the Spanish consider it a cultural tradition to slaughter bulls in bull fights, and most Americans consider it a cultural tradition to eat cows. So it becomes an argument of whose cultural traditions or view of the world is the right one; why is one view better than another.

What are the answers? Do animals exist merely to be eaten by humans, is that why they are here? Is there an absolute truth, is animal killing always “wrong”, and who defines what “wrong” is anyway. Is truth relative, i.e., what is true for me may not be true for you? Is truth just a matter of opinion?

So, gosh, all kinds of issues have been raised here.... thanks a lot Caitlin!

So, enough of the deep philosophy already; it is really very simple, you don’t need to eat animals to live. There are ample grains and fruits and vegetables to support everyone and provide a balanced diet. In fact, if everyone adopted a plant based diet there would be no food shortage, people would be healthier, and the environment would be better off (the single most important thing an individual can do in their daily life to reduce global warming is to be vegetarian).

And, it is a fact, animal slaughter causes pain and suffering to other living beings, i.e. to the cows and dolphins, and all the other creatures that are produced and slaughtered for food; and we don’t need to cause that suffering, there is no excuse for it.

So, in short, killing animals causes unnecessary pain and suffering to other living beings; I don’t need to eat animals or dolphins to live; I am healthier if I don’t eat animals, and the environment is protected.

Therefore, the only logical conclusion is, don’t kill and eat animals (cows, dolphins, or any other type), eat a plant based diet instead.

Real simple!

Thanks for reading.

Love Life! Love animals, don’t eat them.

Mark Fergusson

Danish Dolphin Slaughter

Photo: Faroe Islanders Killing a Pilot Whale

I received an email recently from a friend with widely circulated photos of a horrific dolphin slaughter in the Faroe Islands of Denmark. (The Faroe Islands, located about 250 miles north of Scotland, are about half way between Denmark and Iceland, in other words, they are one very inhospitable place, freezing cold, about as different from Hawaii as one can imagine.)

Every year nearly a thousand Calderon dolphins, a type of pilot whale, are brutally hacked to death in a shallow bay as a sort of annual festival for the islanders. The main participants in this killing are young teens; the cruel and heartless killing of these beautiful dolphins is a supposed “right of passage” ceremony ushering in manhood. I am not sure how cruelly killing defenseless and beautiful creatures proves one’s manhood, but somehow or other this has become the islander’s tradition.

Whenever dolphins are spotted close to shore, they are herded into the shallows by boats where they are then savagely hacked once, twice or even three or more times with thick hooks (see the picture). The dolphins produce a grim sound similar to the cry of a new born child; but their cries go unheeded as they suffer immensely and die a slow and painful death in their own blood.

From the photos it appears that this is a big celebration of death and slaughter, in which everyone is participating in one way or another, either doing the killing, or supporting it like a spectator at some sports event. A little like the way Romans cheered on gladiators, or the Spaniards cheer on bullfighters.

The Calderon dolphin is listed as “Threatened” by the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources).

I used to live in the beautiful Byron Bay area of northern New South Wales, in Australia. I would regularly surf a remote point break called Broken Head. Oftentimes, close to sunset, dolphins would come and share the waves; on occasion there would be two or three dolphins riding the same wave with me. Dolphins are intelligent and graceful creatures and definitely should be respected and protected, not hacked to death as spectator sport.

A petition is circulating on the Internet asking for signatures to deplore this barbaric behavior. Please visit this site, the link is in the footnotes to this post, and sign the petition.

"Objecting to fun was silly"

Photo: Person in a Pig Costume Holding a Meat is Murder Sign

Back to my favorite story, the Wienermobile. There was a letter to the editor in the Honolulu Advertiser today. Unfortunately, it wasn't from me or any of my friends, so instead of saying how great it was to have a law that banned the Wienermobile, it said the Outdoor Circle came off looking silly to object to the Wienermobile. Here are some highlights:

"When I was a small kid (in the '50s) the Wienermobile would come driving through our neighborhood, playings its jingle. We kids would come running out to get the free hot dogs they were handing out." (The jingle goes "I wish I was an Oscar Mayer Wiener")

"The Wienermobile isn't a marketing machine. It is an institution, and does more to spread fun and goodwill than to market product."

"The Outdoor Circle's representative..looked awfully pitiful when they showed the film of all the smiling keiki having a great time getting to visit the Wienermobile, eating their hot dogs. With parents taking proud pictures."

The Wienermobile is succeeding in its aim of associating hot dogs with fun times; a cool and fun looking car, free food, proud parents taking snapshots for the family album. All in all it is very successful propaganda. That weiners are fun is a classic example of a marketing created illusion.

Please wake up dear letter writer and just try to see the truth. Wieners aren't fun (warning strong language describing the reality of meat follows). Wieners are death incarnate. They are ground up blood, bones, brains, livers, other assorted body organs, fat, and slaughterhouse scraps from brutally murdered cows and pigs who lived a life of misery, together with artificial colors and flavorings, etc. all packaged up in intestines (yes intestines). And who knows how many different dead animals are in the one wiener you are eating.

Weiners are indescribable and unspeakable cruelty and inhumanity. Not only that, they are unhealthy, and have been directly linked to cancer (as I blogged last week they are the subject of a New Jersey class action lawsuit seeking cancer causing warning labels on wieners). To sum it up, when you eat a weiner you are eating death, and you are hastening your own death.

Doesn't sound silly to me to ban the Wienermobile!

Love Life! Love animals, don't eat them.

Mark Fergusson

The marketing, like the wienermobile, creates a kind of mirage or illusion

Photo: Wienermobiles

On the wienermobile blog site they invite you to "Submit an essay in 100 words or less that details your favorite hot dog memory and your or another family member’s favorite toppings". If you submit the best entry you get to win a "Labor Day Grill-Out" (this is not quite the same thing as getting to buy great vegetarian products at Down to Earth's 30% Guiltless Grilling Sale that we had last week).

A 100 word essay from a cow that is going to be turned into a wiener might go something like this:

"My favorite hot dog memory is when I was living at the factory farm, knee deep in sh*t, and being fed corn instead of grass (which resulted in my belly being full of gas and E coli), I started daydreaming about what life was like before the factory farms. I imagined eating grass in open fields, of feeding my milk to my calf, and of happily living my life until passing away of natural causes. I happily gave my milk to the farmer who took care of and protected me.... I awoke from my daydream to remember that today they are herding me onto a truck, taking me to the slaughterhouse, brutally murdering me, turning my flesh into meat; my brain, liver, kidneys, and other organs and my blood will be mashed up and stuffed into my intestines and sold as a hot dog...."

Please, when you look at the hot dog on your dinner plate don’t see the fun marketing (wienermobiles, hot dog eating contests); see the reality of what you are eating. The marketing, like the wienermobile, creates a kind of mirage or illusion that converts slaughtered animal body organs, fat, blood, and other scraps into a “fun memory”. But no matter how good the marketing, the fact is that hot dog is someone else's body.

Love Life! Love animals, don't eat them.

Mark Fergusson

Wienermobile on the roll

Photo: Oscar Mayer Wienermobiles

Okay, today I have to comment on the “Wienermobile on the roll” story in the Hawaii section of the Honolulu Advertiser, a “feel good” story about a Wienermobile, a car with a bun and hot dog built over it that gives kids and adults some “fun”. What can be wrong with that? Some amusement for the keiki and for their parents in these tough economic times is a good thing right? The Wienermobile arrived in Honolulu yesterday. The following is from the story:

“Kopish and fellow hot-dogger Derek O'Leary handed out whistles to the 14 children from the Boys & Girls Club of Hawai'i who presented a giant lei to the Wienermobile at Honolulu Harbor. The excitement was audible halfway down the pier.

“Children draped the lei along one windshield wiper to the other, giggling and pointing out it looked like the Wienermobile was smiling. Once they posed and shaka'd, taking photos in front of the vehicle, all 14 excitedly squeezed in wall-to-wall to get a better look at the interior.

“The vehicle, which can blast the Oscar Mayer jingle in 21 different genres ranging from a dance remix to a country and western version, offers participants rides around the block and a history of the Wienermobile.

All this innocent sounding “fun” covers the unbelievably ugly truth about what an Oscar Mayer wiener really is. The reality, as described by a variety of different Internet sources, is as follows:

“Sausages are a result of economical butchery. Traditionally, sausage-makers put to use meat and animal parts equally edible, but not particularly appealing - such as scraps, organ meats, blood, and fat - in a form that allows for preservation: typically, salted and stuffed into a tubular casing made from the cleaned intestine of the animal, producing the characteristic cylindrical shape."

A little more about the casings that hold the sausage meat:

“Traditionally, sausage casings were made of the cleaned intestines (or stomachs in the case of haggis and other traditional puddings) of animals. Today, however, natural casings are often replaced by collagen, cellulose or even plastic casings, especially in the case of industrially manufactured sausages. Additionally, luncheon meat (such as Spam) and sausage meat are now available without casings in tins and jars.”

Anyone want plastic with their ground blood, fat and organs?

Speaking of fat, sausages are full of fat “fat content is legally limited to a maximum of 30%, 35% or 50%, by weight, depending on the style.”

This is the fate of billions of innocent animals every year in the USA and around the world: they are taken from their mothers at birth, raised in horrific factory farms, transported to slaughterhouses in terrifying circumstances, brutally slaughtered, turned into meat, with the brains, liver, kidney, blood, fat, and other scraps ground into sausage with their intestines used to package it.

This is the reality.

Thanks for reading.

Love Life! Love animals, don’t eat them.

Mark Fergusson

P.S. the following is the inane Oscar Mayer jingle:

Oh, I'd love to be an Oscar Mayer wiener.
That is what I'd truly like to be.
'Cause if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener,
Everyone would be in love with me.

Oh, I'm glad I'm not an Oscar Mayer wiener.
That is what I'd never want to be.
Cause if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener.
There would soon be nothing left of me!

On Cruelty to Peacocks and Other Animals...

Photo: Peacock

A recent local news item that caught our attention was about a peacock in Makaha that was bashed with a baseball bat and left to die a painful death.

According to the report, a condo resident was kept awake at night by crowing peacocks in the condomium complexes grounds, she said the incessant noise drove her "cuckoo". Not being able to take it anymore she grabbed a peackok by the tail and "whacked him in the head" and then threw it away in the bushes. The peacock took an hour to die, all the while crying in pain. The police were called and the woman was charged for animal cruelty, and has made appearances in court.

The story continues to generate a lot of media interest and several letters to the editor. Some differing viewpoints expressed were:

  1. The woman was very cruel and engaged in a heinous act and should be punished
  2. Her actions were acceptable because the peacock was a pest and the woman was merely engaging in pest control
  3. Animals are just property, so people can do whatever they want with their property

Despite the outcry over cruelty to this one animal, no one considers the fact that in our meat-based society billions of innocent animals are being cruelly slaughtered and butchered in the U.S. every year. There is no outrage about that.

Cows, calves, pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, and other animals are kept in small cages, in jam-packed sheds, or on filthy feedlots, often with so little space that they can't even turn around or lie down comfortably. Crowding and filth create an atmosphere that fosters and incubates diseases. They are deprived of exercise so that all their bodies' energy goes toward producing flesh, eggs, or milk for human consumption.

They are fed drugs to fatten them faster and to keep them alive in conditions that would otherwise kill them, and they are genetically altered to grow faster or develop commercially desirable traits that they would not have naturally.

These innocent animals endure horrendous suffering while alive, and are then cruelly slaughtered, all to satisfy our craving for flesh and blood. As I mentioned above, the Peacock incident triggered a letter to the editor saying that animals are “property,” that they have no right to life and exist merely for man’s pleasure. The idea that this earth and all the creatures on it exist for our enjoyment is the crux of the problem. This attitude leads to a selfish and reckless exploitation of the earth and its’ creatures. In contrast, a vegetarian lifestyle awakens our spirit of compassion and guides us towards a kinder, gentler society in which we exercise a moral choice to protect animals and see ourselves as caretakers and custodians of the environment—not as exploiters of them.

With such an attitude we will take better care of the earth and all of its inhabitants.

Love Life! Love Animals, Don’t Eat Them!

No Symbol with a Chicken, Steer, Pig and Duck

What makes it wrong, and the idea of it even repulsive, to eat a pet, but okay to slaughter other animals and put them on the dinner table or in our children’s lunch box? Our pets earn a special place in our hearts and often are treated as members of the family. Great efforts and expense are taken to see that they are kept safe, well-nourished, comfortable and happy.

So, we care about our pets, but what about cows, calves, pigs, chickens, turkeys, ducks, geese, and other animals? Many of us, especially children, find such animals cute and endearing in so many ways. Are they not deserving of our care and compassion too?
Animals in today’s factory farms are subject to cruel and inhumane treatment including neglect, mutilation, genetic manipulation, subjection to harmful drug regimens, and gruesome and violent slaughter.

The factory farming system of modern agriculture strives to maximize output while minimizing costs. Animals are kept in small cages, in jam-packed sheds, or on filthy feedlots, often with little space that they can’t even turn around or lie down comfortably. They are fed drugs to fatten them faster and to keep them alive in conditions that would otherwise kill them, and they are genetically altered to develop commercially desirable traits. In most countries, animals in today’s factory farms have no real legal protection from cruelty that would be illegal if it were inflicted on dogs or cats. Yet farmed animals are no less intelligent or capable of feeling pain than are the pets we cherish as companions.

More than a staggering 47 billion animals are killed in food production each year; 10 billion of those animals are slaughtered in the United States alone. These figures do not include countless fish killed for human consumption.
Given the suffering these animals endure, and given that all our nutritional needs can easily be satisfied without eating these organisms, vegetarianism is a morally favorable choice. The fact is that eating animals is unnecessary because nature has provided ample vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes and dairy products for human sustenance. Therefore, the slaughter of animals for food is a luxury rather than a necessity.

A vegetarian lifestyle awakens our spirit of compassion and guides us towards a kinder, gentler society in which we exercise a moral choice to protect animals—not exploit them. 

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