Animal activism having a crippling effect on US meat industry
Animal activists secretly recording abuses of individual meat plantworkers is having a crippling effect on the industry, speakers addressing the National Meat Association's annual summer conference said.
A case in point is the Hallmark/Westland recall, which sparked a record 143 million pounds of meat after undercover activists from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) shot videos of plant workers abusing non-ambulatory cattle.
The effects of that video has emboldened the HSUS to increase its undercover videotaping operations in processing plants, the association said.
Steve Dittmer, executive vice president of the Agribusiness Freedom Foundation, told attendees that HSUS's exposure has helped the organization increase cash flow, and that some of it is being used to hire more investigators.
Lloyd C. Day, administrator of USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service, reported that the National School Lunch Programme, to which Hallmark was a major supplier, has spent some US$90 million in beef purchases from other sources since the incident, but sourcing product is becoming increasingly difficult as suppliers fear backlash.
Day said vendors believe the school lunch programme is a target of the Humane Society.
In January, an undercover animal-rights worker at the plant used a video camera to document workers moving downed cows with forklifts, sticking them repeatedly with electric prods and spraying water down their noses to make them stand, allegedly to get them to slaughter.
The release of the video prompted the USDA to issue a recall for the beef at the plant. The company later declared imminent closure due to the huge cost involved.