Largest meat recall in history 'only the tip of the iceberg'

February 25, 2008

On Sunday, February 17, 2008 the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued its largest meat recall in United States history, less than three weeks after a slaughterhouse worker secretly made a tape depicting violations of federal animal care regulations by a Westland division of the Hallmark Company. Upon investigation, the Humane Society of the United States found animals too sick to walk or stand- called "downers" by industry- being kicked, beaten, dragged with chains, shocked with electric prods, sprayed in the face with hoses and rammed by forklifts to get them to stand and pass USDA inspection. Of the 143 million pounds of beef recalled, 37 million were likely already consumed. With 20 meat recalls issued last year alone, one of more than 20 millions pounds, Americans are left to question their trust in the USDA and wonder exactly what happens to their food before it enters their mouths.

SLAUGHTERHOUSE: THE SHOCKING STORY OF GREED, NEGLECT, AND INHUMANE TREATMENT INSIDE THE U.S. MEAT INDUSTRY by Gail A. Eisnitz ($19, Prometheus Books, 2006) is the first book of its kind to explore the impact that unprecedented changes in the meat packing industry over the last 25 years have had on workers, animals and consumers. It is also the first time ever that workers- in this case, individuals who have spent a combined total of more than two million hours on the kill floor- have spoken publicly about what's really taking place behind the closed doors of America's slaughterhouses. Depicting inadequate inspection and control of slaughterhouses and the use of "downers," author Gail A. Eisnitz penetrates the veil that hangs over meat production and shocks readers with what she has found.

Gail A. Eisnitz, winner of the Albert Schweitzer Medal for outstanding achievement in animal welfare and chief investigator for the Humane Farming Association, says, "As disturbing as the abuses at Hallmark may seem, they represent only the tip of the iceberg...USDA meat inspectors--the very individuals required to enforce federal Humane Slaughter Act regulations--went public in Slaughterhouse stating that they are virtually powerless to enforce the law and are not even stationed in those areas of the plants where they can see live animals being handled and slaughtered."
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Eisnitz's work has been featured in newspapers and magazines such as the New York Times, the Miami Herald, the Los Angeles Times, and US News & World Report. Her work also resulted in exposes by ABC's Good Morning, America, Primetime Love and Dateline NBC, as well as a front-page expose in Washington Post that was one of its highest reader-response pieces ever.

Prometheus Books

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