Even the pretty black and white ones

I heard about the slaughterhouse video from the Humane Society of the United States a couple of weeks ago, but did not watch it because I’m way too sensitive for stuff like that. This morning coworkers were talking about the massive beef recall it spawned, one person yelling for the other to stop talking about it because she couldn’t think about the downed animals, and the other coming to my desk to tell me he was done eating beef and that the processors should be put in jail for endangering human life. This struck me as interesting (and depressing) on a couple of points: first, that people don’t want to face horrible things about animal suffering and just prefer to let it continue, and then that other people aren’t concerned at all about the animals and just want to sue over mad cow disease.

Obviously we all have different motivators, shock-inducers, thresholds for action, what have you. Had it not been for the work of undercover animal rights investigators, though, who are vilified or considered crazy by the average person and targeted by ridiculous laws like AETA, my average American coworkers would not have to face knowing that yes, cattle in slaughterhouses are abused, and that yes, you might eat tainted meat from sick livestock.

I’m just wearied by the news and not interested in passing judgment. I think it will take a bigger wake up call than this, though, for people to incorporate a little compassion and safety into their hamburgers.


In the video, workers are seen kicking cows, ramming them with the blades of a forklift, jabbing them in the eyes, applying painful electrical shocks and even torturing them with a hose and water in attempts to force sick or injured animals to walk to slaughter.

I still haven’t watched the video. You can read the HSUS article, where there is a link to the video if you can stomach it. There is also a short New York Times article about the recall. Much of the beef went to school lunch programs and food for the elderly, poor, etc.

3 thoughts on “Even the pretty black and white ones

  1. I was off work when the video surfaced on NBC which gives WNDU their national video and I saw it on our station without warning of “graphic video” beforehand, and it was hard to take in.

  2. When I worked at a Children’s Hospital, we developed analytical methods pushing technology to its limits to minimize blood draw volumes for premature infants. One of the technologies we employed involved a radioreceptor assay to monitor the active Vitamin D metabolite. This was critical to helping premies, and other kids and adults with metabolic bone disease, identify that therapy was on-track so that they could grow and develop healthy bones. Without these “markers” kids would suffer painful fractures and fail to grow.

    The receptor we isolated was from calf thymus. Regretfully, we had to go to the slaughterhouse and “quench” the thymus from freshly slaughtered calves in 4^C PBS to minimize protease activity. While I never witnessed the slaughter myself, I will never forget arriving to the slaughterhouse while the calves were being “unloaded” and ultimately holding warm tissue in my hands, knowing that it came from calves that I myself refused to eat. The refrigerated area we worked in contained the “not for human consumption” material that is sold to pet food manufacturers. During the 45 minute ride back to the lab, I had to prepare myself for the 6 hours of work to isolate the receptor and begin testing for suitability.

    This was the first time in my professional career where morals and science collided. Since the entire process was so deeply disturbing for me, I definitely paid attention to the receptor isolation to *avoid* having to go back to the slaughterhouse. It used to take me at least 4 days to “recover” from my slaughterhouse experience. During my 8.5 years at the hospital, I had to make that disturbing trip 4 times – the last time two weeks before I relocated to Indianapolis.

    I will say that the clincal work was deeply rewarding. We interacted with clinicians and got to meet many of the kids our methods helped while they were at the hospital. I’ll never forget the receptor isolation….

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