I've been trying to wrap my mind around the nightmare video clips of downer cattle at the Westland/Hallmark Meat Packing Company of Chino, California, the release of which resulted in the largest beef recall in US history, this past weekend.
This recall involves meat that was processed dating back to February 2006, most of which was used by schools and government programs...Oh yeah, and fast food joints too. The videos of the terrible treatment of these animals are shocking, but not all that different than the horror of factory farming done right...its all too much anyway. This is the stuff that makes high schoolers become vegetarians, for a while at least; the stuff that comes from Americans being so removed from their food sources as to think that there is some easy way to kill....But this isn't a story about those poor cows getting kicked by underpaid, under managed, and frustrated workers. Its a story about the basic inequities in our society and who is getting rich off of Americans and illegal workers without a voice. This is a story about the helplessness that is permeating our society, and how we have managed to allow the ill-informed past decisions of the electorate to turn on the crazy Reaganesque "less government" message, which was supposed to enable the individual and to put more money in each pocket, but actually crippled a system that was designed to give everyone a fair chance. Who were enabled were an elite few... and the elected government has been happy to keep America on red alert, scared, while handing power over to a dwindling number of large corporations who have managed their business as if this is a monarchy, and they are the god chosen heirs in control of all resources.
For anyone who ever wondered why the neocon power base would want to maintain a permanent underclass, here it is; This wasn't the beef that the upper and middle classes were buying at the supermarket, or that would ever be offered to anyone with a choice. This wasn't meat that a discerning adult was preparing for children or at a soup kitchen. This was the cheap-o garbage meat that is mass produced for foods that are heavily salted, frozen, and recooked numerous times for those who have no choice but to eat what is put in front of them. This is our Soylent Green
. Weather or not it can be proved that anyone died from this particular batch is beside the point. These are the chips of protein that are parceled out to the helpless in order to keep them in line. Do I have to point out that many school children get their main meal at school lunch, or that "government programs" are likely prisons or social service providers? School children are often lucky to see a vegetable or a cup of high fructose fruit cocktail, and when offered a piece of steak or a fresh hamburger, they don't like it because they are conditioned to like the flat, brown, previously frozen, "beef" of the fast food and school lunch world.
Its not just the flat little frozen patties that are sent to schools that are suspect. CT has seen many recalls, and recently, after a barbecue at the local firehouse (during which I didn't eat, luckily,) every fireman got deathly ill for 24 hours with the worst of stomach complaints. The culprit was frozen beef patties from Costco. Besides that we are already short staffed here in our volunteer fire department, I cant imagine what would have happened if there had been a big emergency during that time.
We can't say that the beef in question in this recall definitely didn't kill anyone. Its just that it wasn't caught. Stomach virus' run through schools, and most of that stuff is cooked to death...but still...Once the meat is traced, I'm sure that illness will surround the areas where it was consumed. But, if any responsibility can be proved, its likely that the company will have already gone belly up. This is not the kind of a scandal that a food company lives through; its just too big.
There is no excuse for any human being to mistreat a helpless animal, much less another human being, but the victims at the source are virtually cattle themselves. Its been shown over and over that the meat packing industry is a catch-all for illegal immigrants in this country, and that the corporate structure of that industry is so strong that it is seldom that our dwindling FDA is even able to check out what goes on. Again, I can see, in my mind's eye, a failing Ronald Reagan speaking about corporate responsibility and the need for government to step back and let large corporations police themselves. He was saying how there was no need for the country to have regulations in place because large corporations surely would do the right thing, Uh-huh. As Hillary Clinton says, large corporations and their lobbyists are people too, deserving of full protection and care...right? But what kind of people are they? Are they rich people who are above the law until something really bad happens, or are they the poor folks of color who are stopped fir driving in the wrong neighborhood? Thats how the law works, right?
If the video of the abuse of these cattle had not been released, this would still be going on, as it is probably still happening all over the place. Downer cattle are regularly picked up from the floor of the slaughter house and dragged along, because they represent profit, and regardless of whatever sickness they might have, or the e. coli that they've fallen in, the corporation's first responsibility is the it's stockholders, and those stockholders are looking at the bottom line, not the ramifications of the details...until they get caught, that is. A corporation like this has to weigh the legalities of producing poisoned foods, with the legalities of their responsibility to the stockholders. The two often are in conflict, as with health insurance, and that is why they need to be regulated. The fine line that is walked every day in trying to turn a profit in the face of globalism and China feeding plastic to it's animals to cut costs and offer it cheaper...well, maybe its less that American corporations need regulation and more that they need protection from globalism!
This episode is not likely to send a chill through the industry, because fines are relatively small, and the span of time in this case is such that liability for illness or death will be hard to prove. But again, we are faced with what happens when we allow the corporate world to regulate itself. Its not just that we are facing a problem in feeding our own citizens because the bottom line is ruling the quality of food that is available to the underprivileged in the richest country in the world, but we have removed social responsibility from the producers and replaced it with complete and total loyalty to the stockholders and business. How can that be? Whole portions of society are less able to function and learn because of the poison that a corporation like this feeds them; and then scientists note that the poor have more incidence of disease, are more obese, are more anxious...which they cant treat preventively because existing health insurance is unlikely to provide for care before the fact, and even if it does, there are no markets with fresh food near to the areas where they live, so the suggestion to get more exercise and eat better falls into a category of impossibility. Just like physical therapy 3 times per week and trying to relax more, those are options available to the rich. Even the middle class has trouble carving out time to even take a walk, much less make a salad.
I am disgusted as hell by the mistreatment of animals, and I cant imagine introducing something with the potential to kill children into the food chain. This case is evidently a purposeful case of the bottom line overwhelming common sense, and its criminal. I can guess that the CEO of this company is not hurting, and I wonder how many corners are cut to show enough profit in order to pay what have become overwhelming salaries to top management in these corporations. I know that the pressure is not due to worker's salaries or compensation packages. All of that is a thing of the past, along with job security, home owenrship, and comfortable retirement.
In the end of Fast Food Nation
, a movie that is as timely now as it was, in 2006, when it originally came out and was nominated for 2 Academy Awards, the camera follows along the conveyor of the slaughterhouse where some struggling illegal immigrants work. It is very hard to watch, but it is also a truth that we would be foolish to put totally out of our minds, while trusting the government to protect us somehow. The Bush administration has done us the favor of laying some stark realities out for all to see. The government doesn't care about you or me. They certainly don't want an educated, safe, and well fed population to carry us into the next century. They are only interested in the top echelon of power and how to make the rich richer, while appearing to care about the little people.
We have to regulate the food industry in this county, and we have to get some sort of control over the quality of what is coming down the pike to a supermarket near you. This is less a story about pathetic sick cows being mistreated, than it is a story about how, in the service of the bottom line, a corporation can shape the lives of entire segments of society...including children, who should have all the possibilities in the world open to them!!...and how, once again, one company will take the fall, and the underlying problem with continue unchecked because we have no FDA.
And of course, there are too many videos on YouTube
showing the "best" and the worst of how our food is processed...but I just couldnt bring myself to post any here. Its just too sad. But follow the link and prepare to cry; its not pretty, folks...but no one ever said that life was going to be.
Labels: Corruption, FDA, nutrition, poison, scandal