Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Read and Respond

The Associated Press released an informative news bite today, entitled Film Prompted First Humane Slaughter Law. The story is a brief historical piece that chronicles the birth of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act in 1958 and its connection to the recent beef recall.

Read an excerpt from the AP story:

"A film showing slaughterhouse workers abusing animals spurs demands for the federal 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 1950's film helped trigger a fierce debate on Capitol Hill over whether animals deserved some federal protection in their final moments. Congress ultimately decided that they did, and 50 years ago this summer, 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 Chino, Calif., 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."

Later in the article:

"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.

Speaking during debate on the day of the bill's passage, then-Sen. Hubert Humphrey, a Minnesota Democrat and future vice president, said: 'We are morally compelled, here in this hour, to try to imagine — to try to feel in our own nerves — the totality of the suffering of 100 million tortured animals. The issue before us today is pain, agony and cruelty — and what a moral man must do about it in view of his own conscience.'"

The article also highlights a key vehicle for change - citizen action:

"In the late 1950s, Congress was awash in debate on the humane slaughter issue. The New York Times, in a May 4, 1958 story headlined 'Humane Appeals Swamp Congress,' described how constituent letters on the subject dwarfed those on foreign policy, the economy and defense. Four days of Senate hearings, the Times reported, attracted large crowds, mostly of women. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the legislation despite the Agriculture Department's opposition. 'If I depended on my mail,' he said after the hearings, "I would think humane slaughter is the only thing anyone is interested in.'"

Moral of the story: Urge our Secretary of Agriculture Edward Schafer to ban the entry of sick and injured cattle into the human food supply. Email Secretary Schafer at