Gary Smith on Beef Industry Cruelty

July 11, 2011

Dr. Gary Smith, one of the top beef industry academics, asserts that:

Numerous bloggers express concern about what they perceive as frequent and widespread abuse, as well as cruel and inhumane treatment, of farm animals. Such actions do occur and have been documented but they are neither frequent nor widespread in the beef industry.

Smith then points to the Beef Quality Assurance program, USDA slaughter inspection, and American Meat Institute Guidelines as signs that substantial protections against cruelty have been enacted. He then claims:

Incidents like that of the inhumane handling of cattle at the Hallmark Westland beef processing plant in Chino, CA are not likely to ever occur again because USDA meat inspectors are now much more diligent in performing antemortem inspection, and because beef packers are taking extraordinary precaution in monitoring animal care and handling practices.

“Are not likely to ever occur again,” huh? What about the E6 cattle investigation that occurred just this past March? It seems beyond dispute that the cruelties inflicted upon those calves were as vile as anything that occurred at Hallmark Westland.

I’m willing to believe that a concerted push by the beef industry and the USDA could eliminate the most extreme cruelties from America’s biggest slaughterhouses. But even if that’s true, the larger problem is that slaughterhouses are but one venue for animal abuse within the beef industry. They’ve also got cow-calf operations, feedlots, transport, and stockyards—each of which are prone to their own brands of cruelty or neglect.

My bet is that we will be seeing many more examples of extreme cruelty in the beef industry. Whether this cruelty happens to occur at slaughterhouses is irrelevant.

Deliberately or not, Smith’s piece gives the impression that the beef industry has done an end-to-end cleanup of its animal welfare practices. As the E6 investigation demonstrated all too clearly, the beef industry still has a long, long way to go when it comes to guaranteeing satisfactory animal welfare. (Via Jolley.) Link.

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