Humane Society of the US just released another expose video on animal cruelty in the meat industry. They argue for more regulation so that the responsibility for downer cattle is firmly placed on someone’s shoulder.
Their ultimate goal is to eliminate factory farming, where cattle are raised one place, transported to a feedlot where they pack on a lot of weight, and then transported to a meat packing plant where they are finally slaughtered. It is meat production by bussing, and it is part of the reason why we have downer cattle, which HSUS are so concerned about.
HSUS, which is not related to your local Humane Society in any way, shape, or form, is arguing for more regulation. They want regulation that says who is responsible for downer cattle at the meat packing plant, at the auction houses, and anywhere else. No one seem to take care of them when the truck driver cannot hand off a walking animal to the next link in the chain that takes the cattle from the farmers pastures to your dinner table.
I propose that the regulation caused the factory farming in the first place. There are two reasons for why I make that argument:
1. Regulation cost money; small slaughterhouses cannot afford the excessive cost of following USDA’s detailed guidelines and reporting routines.
2. USDA has been pushing for larger slaughterhouses, because it cost them more to supervise small operations.
The number of meatpacking plants in the U.S. has reduced drastically from almost 2,500 in 1974, to about 900 today. This has in part been a result of the cost and efficiency of using new technology, but there is another component to the story, which is not told very often. Reason started telling the story with a brief list of how regulation prevents Virginia farmer Joel Salatin to do what he wants with the products from his farm. Salatin has published several books on how to make organic, local food systems profitable. His most recent book Everything I Want To Do Is Illegal: War Stories From the Local Food Front is a tale of how his battle with USDA.
Salatin also has impeccable credentials from the organic food movement, and food snob Michael Pollan’s recent book the Omnivore’s Dilemma featured several chapter of Salatin’s farming methods and thoughts on supplying food for people. Salatin has been trying to establish a slaughterhouse because he does not want to ship is cattle offsite for slaughter. The USDA will have nothing of it. USDA do not mind that he slaughters onsite, they do not mind that he gives away the beef he slaughtered on the farm, but they will not let him sell it.
Salatin tried to establish a slaughterhouse with an acquaintance. After much ado, the USDA finally issued the permits. Once the plant was in operation, the USDA pulled the inspector because he was not processing animals fast enough. I was not aware that the USDA’s mission was to increase productivity in individual slaughterhouses, they only have to verify that it is done right, and even that is something that other organizations seems to do better.
The other story I have about misguided regulation of the meat supply is a story from the New York Times. Animal rights activists are pushing to ban the slaughter of horses all together, and have already succeeded in doing so in Illinois and in Texas. The result is that horses are now transported all the way to Canada for slaughter. Regulation is causing more industrialized farming, instead of achieving the activists goals of a