Trump Administration Moves Forward To Allow Pork Slaughterhouses To Self-Police; Slashing USDA Inspectors
If you have little concern for the suffering of animals, humans, or data from your own studies, for that matter, you might be inclined to do what the Trump administration’s USDA just did. They have just moved to let slaughterhouses police themselves despite the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.
To sum it up: Pork slaughterhouses will have 40 percent fewer inspectors as speed limits on tired workers processing carcasses were eliminated. Now they will be cranking out the meat at breakneck speed, endangering their life and limbs, and passing on possible contamination risk to hungry consumers.
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue had the nerve to call it modernization and innovation. Pork producers have likewise embraced slashing inspections and cranking up the pace of production.
“This regulatory change allows us to ensure food safety while eliminating outdated rules and allowing for companies to innovate,” stated Perdue.
Meanwhile, the National Pork Producers Council was delighted.
“We applaud the USDA for introducing a new inspection system that incentivizes investment in new technologies while ensuring a safe supply of wholesome American pork,” David Herring, president of the National Pork Producers Council, stated.
For many people, the thought of slaughtering and processing meat is abstract. That allows consumers to eat without considering where that meat came from. However, for 90,000 pork slaughterhouse workers, their daily lives entail doing the dirty and bloody work. According to reports from NBC News and the Hill, those workers now may have to process more than 1,106 hogs per hour. These conditions will only worsen the average turnover rate at the slaughterhouses annually, which can be as high as 100 percent.
Three decades of studies show that faster line speeds will only harm workers more, but the USDA has apparently ignored them. Instead, they claimed to have conducted an analysis that showed that faster line speeds were safer, then failed to publish the results.
Thanks to an open records request, the “study” showed obvious flaws. Nevertheless, the USDA claims that “inspectors conducted more checks for contaminants than under the old system.”
“The USDA’s Office of Inspector General has opened an investigation into the use of faulty data, the lack of transparency, and other irregularities of this rule. But the administration is plowing ahead at the behest of big packinghouse companies.”
A whopping 40 percent fewer government food safety inspectors and line inspectors will oversee the dangerous work. In their place, possibly untrained company employees will follow the company’s own procedures to pass “inspection.”
Let’s face it: American corporations are now famous for their often sociopathic focus on the bottom line, rather than worker’s rights (much less those of animals). We only rely on government protections more and more, as unions are eroded.
However, in this case, the government seems to be working against the interest of worker safety and even against their own data. According to the Hill, consumer groups reviewed data from a government study of pilot slaughterhouses and found: “plants with fewer inspectors and faster lines had more regulatory violations than others.”
Of course, that’s just common sense, but the USDA seems to have abandoned that too.
“Indeed, the pilot project gave no indication that allowing companies to police themselves produces safe food. Nevertheless, the USDA concluded that self-policing would ensure food safety based on a technical risk assessment that — in violation of Office of Management and Budget guidelines — was not peer-reviewed before the USDA published its rule. Later, three of the five peer reviewers indicated that the study was fundamentally flawed. The USDA has pressed forward with its rule regardless, dismissing this criticism as mere technicality.”
Fortunately, not all USDA inspectors will be gone, so some of the carcasses will still be examined in “targeted safety checks.” Firing the remaining inspectors will save about $8.7 million a year, but what about the cost of suffering and health concerns to Americans? Then we have to point out the suffering to animals as highly intelligent pigs are treated like products instead of living creatures.
Then consider: Consumer advocates say this will all endanger Americans.
“This rule puts industry profits ahead of public health,” said Thomas Gremillion, director of food policy for the Consumer Federation of America, an advocacy group. He called the rule “a recipe for food safety disaster.”
Perhaps Debbie Berkowitz, a former Obama Labor Department official put it best:
The rule “will lead to an increase in serious and often crippling injuries to tens of thousands of slaughterhouse workers, who already endure exceedingly harsh conditions to provide cheap pork to American consumers,” said Berkowitz, a program director at the National Employment Law Project, a research and advocacy group. “The Trump administration is rigging the rules against our nation’s packinghouse workers and sacrificing their health to benefit narrow corporate interests.”
If the Inspector General does not find fault with the pilot program findings, the USDA may do the same thing to the beef slaughterhouses of America. It might be time to consider reducing the amount of meat consumption for a variety of reasons, and this story only makes that more evident than ever.
See more about what goes on inside these slaughterhouses below. (WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT)
Featured image: Screenshot via Pixabay