It must be hard to be a factory
farmer these days.
First there's the problem of
If they appear to be legal, how
do you know they're not undercover animal advocates with cameras who will make
you an overnight animal abuse criminal on the Internet?
It's not like people are lining
up for jobs with descriptions like "Remove dead animals from 98 degree
ammonia-infused pens, $8 an hour, depending on experience." And "sex
newborn chicks, grinding up males for feed: $6 dollars an hour; chance for
Even prisoners released to work
at Smithfield Packing Co.'s slaughterhouse in Tar Heel, NC, quit reported Rick
Bragg in the New York Times; "If this is freedom, give me
incarceration" their apparent sentiment.
Then there's the public which
increasingly wants transparency and humanity in the production of its meat
products and won't fall for a paternalistic If-You Want-Our-Product-This-is-Is-How-It's-Made
argument either. (Trust us -- we're factory farmers.)
Nor does the public fall for
the "factory farms are just big family farms" argument any longer.
People are beginning to realize
that farming "contractors" paid by the weight they can add onto the
animals provided them -- less feed -- are just latter day sharecroppers with
all the responsibility of farming and none of the benefits.
And now mainstream magazines
that never had an agenda are getting into the act and going "PETA"!
"America's top pork
producer churns out a sea of waste that has destroyed rivers, killed millions
of fish and generated one of the largest fines in EPA history," blasts an
article, Boss Hog by Jeff Tietz, in the Dec. 14 issue of Rolling Stone,
about Smithfield Foods, the world largest pork producer. "Welcome to the
dark side of the other white meat."
In an eight-page, 29-point
response, Smithfield Foods tries valiantly to refute Tietz' charges of wanton
pollution and animal abuse. But it just manages to dig itself deeper manure
Instead of defending the air in
hog pens, which Tietz says is barely breathable from heat, chemical fumes and
uncollected animal excrement, Smithfield writes, "It is extremely rare
when mechanical failure of ventilation systems causes death of animals due to
indoor air quality."
Instead of refuting or
explaining the Rolling Stone photo of a mountain of dead pigs -- still pink and
looking eerily like children -- found on its borders, Smithfield says, "We
take a great deal of pride in the operation and appearance of our hog
And its only response to
Tietz's charge that "Tens of thousands" of pigs perished during
Hurricane Floyd in 1999 because of factory farming is that 20,000 is "the
official estimate" and, "The vast majority of these pigs died inside
buildings and remained there until they were removed by farm managers or
It's a good thing Smithfield
didn't refute Tietz's claim that seven people have drowned in manure lagoons on
factory farms in recent years; five more died in July on a Rockingham County
dairy farm in Virginia.
And now, Gourmet magazine has
gone "PETA" too.
In June it ran an expose by NPR
contributor Daniel Zwerdling about factory farming of chickens, called View
To Kill, replete with a photo of chickens hanging from hooks to be
"Spokesmen at the five
biggest companies refused to show me the farms where their suppliers raise the
chickens you eat, so that I could see firsthand how they treat them,"
writes Zwerdling. "They refused to show me the slaughterhouses, so I could
see how the companies dispatch them. Executives even refused to talk to me
about how they raise and kill chickens."
Undaunted, Zwerdling discovers
that 2 percent of US processed chickens,180 million a year, are "red
birds" which the National Chicken Council admits are boiled alive in
defeathering tanks because they miss the assembly line blade that should kill
"When this happens, the
chickens flop, scream, kick, and their eyeballs pop out of their heads,"
wrote Virgil Butler a "live hanger" in a Grannis, Ark., Tyson plant
in 2003 in a sworn affidavit. "Then, they often come out the other end
with broken bones and disfigured and missing body parts because they've
struggled so much in the tank."
But Richard L. Lobb, the
spokesperson for the National Chicken Council was annoyed at Zwerdling's
interest in the boiling mishaps. "This process is over in a matter of
minutes if not in seconds," he says with a sigh.
With mainstream magazines
suddenly interested in animal welfare, factory farmers no doubt worry what's
next. Sports Illustrated exposes veal crates? Forbes visits a Chinese fur farm?
But they shouldn't.
On the opposite page from
Zwerdling's article in Gourmet is a recipe for Grilled Lobster and Potatoes
with Basil Vinaigrette that instructs the cooks to "Plunge lobsters
headfirst into a 12-quart pot of boiling salted water."
The one to one-and-a-half pound
lobsters are alive.
Martha Rosenberg is a Staff Cartoonist at the Evanston
Roundtable. Her work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, LA Times, San
Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, Providence Journal. Arizona Republic, New
Orleans Times-Picayune and other newspapers. She can be reached at: email@example.com.