The following is a description by factory farm workers of the standard hog factory practice of “thumping” in which workers pick up pigs by their hind legs, whirl them over their shoulders, and bash them headfirst into the concrete floor.
“We’ve thumped as many as 120 pigs in one day. We just swing them, thump them, then toss them aside. Then, after you’ve thumped ten, twelve, fourteen of them, you take them to the chute room and stack them up for the dead truck. And if you go in the chute room and some are still alive, then you have to do this whole procedure all over again. There’ve been times I’ve walked in that room and pigs would be running around with an eyeball hanging down the side of their face, just bleeding like crazy, or their jaw would be broken. I’ve seen them with broken backs, where they’ve been knocked unconscious for a few minutes, but then they’re trying to get up again.
“Some of those guys thump them, then they just stand on top of their throats. Whether it’s to keep them from moving or to suffocate them, they stand on top of their throats and wait til they die. They break their jaws and everything while they’re doing it.”
“You can’t really swing the bigger pigs. One time I walked in and the guys were using two by fours and hammers and gate rods and everything else to kill them pigs. “
“We had a total of 138 one day,” said a woman at another farm. “And the guys who were supposed to thump them didn’t kill them all. I went back in that room after they’d left, because I was supposed to pick up all the dead bodies, and there were pigs with blood just running down their heads. And they were up walking around. Here these animals had the courage to make it through the first thumping, and here I have to go and thump them again.”
In US hog factories, millions of breeding sows spend their entire lives inside tiny metal cages so small that they can never walk or turn around. The practice, called “crating” has been outlawed on the grounds of cruelty in several European nations. When first crated, sows scream and crash their bodies against the side bars of their stalls. Over days, months, and years of confinement, they develop increased levels of corticosteroids associated with high stress and exhibit mourning behavior and other signs of learned helplessness and steriotypies similar to those in humans suffering from chronic psychiatric disorders. They are provided no bedding or nesting material so their dung can fall through to the waste pit below. They live–eat, sleep, defecate, give birth and nurse their young–on concrete or metal slatted floors. They develop severe respiratory disorders from inhaling their own fumes (even workers are provided gas masks). And a large percentage of these sows collapse after years of immobilization in crates or have to be culled because of the severe arthritis that results from this type of warehousing.
When the pregnant sows are ready to give birth, they are moved from gestation crates into farrowing crates. “They beat the shit out of the sows to get them inside the crates because they don’t want to go,” said a female worker. “One guy smashed a sow’s nose in so bad that she ended up dying of starvation.” “We had one too with his nose smashed in,” said another. “A 600 pound boar. Smashed him in there. He finally died.”
“On the farm where I work,” said a worker, “they drag live pigs who can’t stand up any more out of the crate. They put a metal snare around her ear or front foot and they drag her the full length of the building. And these animals are just screaming in pain. They’re dragging them across the concrete. It’s ripping their skin. These metal snares are tearing up their ears….”
“When sows can’t stand up anymore and we have to kill ‘em to perform C-sections, we wait until within a week of farrowing and we kill her and cut her open, then we drag her outside to the Dumpster. We use a stun gun or we get a hammer and start beating the head. Until they die.”
Just how wasteful are these operations? One worker summed it up. She was telling me about a pig that was supposed to be transported from the nursery to the grower barn and how she had didn’t ship it for three weeks because it was lame. “Then she got too big, we couldn’t ship her out. She ended up having to be killed.” In short, she was killed because she was too BIG!
In a rare instance, a worker was allowed to take home 20 pigs that had been slated for thumping. “We turned them loose on my dad’s farm,” he said. “They ran around in the mud like normal pigs. Grew to maturity. Really healthy. No diseases.” The worker told me how he wanted to go into business raising pigs the company planned to kill. “I would’ve made a fortune,” he said.
These staggering death losses are not considered a major financial drain to factory farmers because dead hogs are simply picked up by “dead trucks” which make daily rounds, and then they’re trucked to rendering plants, ground up, and fed back to live pigs, cattle, and other animals. A person can visit a rendering plant and see a constant flow of dead pigs being dumped from dump trucks and tractor trailers into auger pits 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Nor is value placed on animal life in the transportation process, because insurance carriers pick up losses en route to the slaughterhouse. In the summer, massive numbers of pigs die from suffocation. In the winter, thousands of pigs arrive at slaughterhouses frozen as solid as rocks.
“In the winter, some hogs come in all froze to the sides of the trucks. They tie a chain around them and jerk them off the walls of the truck, leave a chunk of hide and flesh behind. They might have a little bit of life left in them, but workers throw them on piles of dead ones. They’ll die sooner or later because there’s nothing left to them.”
The Humane Slaughter Act was passed 41 years ago. It requires that animals in federally inspected slaughterhouses be handled humanely and that they be rendered unconscious with one application of an effective stunning device prior to being shackled and hoisted up on the line. Once stunned, animals must remain unconscious during shackling, hoisting, bleeding, and butchering.
Stunning is accomplished in a variety of ways. Cattle are rendered unconscious or “knocked” with a captive bolt gun. A worker stands over the animal and shoots a metal rod into the head. After stunning, the cow has a shackle placed around a hind leg, is hoisted up on to a moving rail, has the throat cut–that process is called “sticking” and is performed by the “sticker”–is supposed to bleed out for several minutes, and then is skinned and dismembered.
Pigs are stunned with electricity, they are shocked into unconsciousness, shackled, hoisted up on the rail, they have their throats cut, and then, after bleeding out for several minutes, they are dragged through a long tank of scalding water to loosen their bristles for removal.
The Humane Slaughter Act also requires that disabled animals are never to be dragged and are to be protected from inclement weather; that pipes and sharp objects are not to be used to prod animals; that animals have access to water at all times, basic things like that. Humane Slaughter Act regulations authorize USDA meat inspectors and veterinarians stationed in slaughter plants, whose primary responsibility is to inspect meat for wholesomeness after animals are slaughtered, to stop the slaughter process when violations occur and are not immediately corrected.
What Really Happens…..
“These hogs get up to the scalding tank, hit the water, and just start screaming and kicking. I’m not sure whether the hogs burn to death before drowning. The water is 140 degrees, not that hot. I don’t believe the hogs go into shock, because it takes them a couple of minutes to stop thrashing. I think they die slowly from drowning.”
“After a while you become desensitized. And as far as animals go, they’re a lower life-form. They’re maybe one step above a maggot. When you got a live, conscious hog, you not only kill it, you want to make it hurt. You go in hard, blow the windpipe, make it drown in its own blood. Take out an eyeball, split its nose. A live hog would be running around the pit with me. It would be looking up at me and I would just take my knife and–eerk–take its eye out while it was just sitting there. And this hog would just scream.
“One time, I took my knife–it’s sharp enough–and I sliced off the end of a hog’s nose, just like a piece of lunch meat. The hog went crazy for a few seconds. Then it just sat there looking kind of stupid. So I took a handful of salt brine and ground it into his nose. Now that hog really went nuts, pushing its nose all over the place. I still had a bunch of salt left on my hand and I stuck the salt right up the hog’s ass. The poor hog didn’t know whether to shit or go blind.
“Another time, there was a live hog in the pit. It hadn’t done anything wrong, wasn’t even running around. It was just alive. I took a three foot chunk of pipe and I literally beat that hog to death. I’ll bet there couldn’t have been a two inch diameter piece of solid bone in his head. Basically, if you want to put it in laymen’s terms, I crushed his skull.”
“If you get a hog in the chute that refuses to move, you take a meat hook and clip it into his anus. You try to do this by clipping the hipbone. Then you drag him backwards. Your dragging these hogs alive, and a lot of times the meat hook rips out of the bunghole. I’ve seen hams–thighs–completely ripped open. I’ve also seen intestines come out. If the hog collapses near the front of the chute, you shove a meat hook into his cheek and drag him forward.”
“The preferred method of handling a cripple is to beat him to death with a lead pipe before he gets into the chute. It’s called ‘piping’. All the drivers use pipes to kill hogs that can’t go through the chutes. Or if a hog refuses to go into the chutes and is stopping production, you beat him to death.”
“Hogs are stubborn. Beating them in the head seems to work about the best. Piece of rebar about an inch across, you force a hog down the alley, have another guy standing there with a piece of rebar in his hand. It’s just like playing baseball. Just like somebody pitching something at you.”
Sadly, this was just the beginning of my investigation. Every time I thought I’d encountered the worst violations I could imagine, I’d visit another pig, horse, and cattle plant with even more horrendous violations. The workers I talked with represented 2,000,000 hours on the kill floor.
They told me that they routinely had to pound away at cows’ and horses’ heads with ineffective captive bolt guns in order to render the animals unconscious. Workers strangled cattle with cables when they were dragging them up to the stun area, they listened to bones cracking and necks popping when they dragged horses. They used saws or blow-torches to remove the legs of live cattle that were stuck in trucks, in chutes, and in the stun area. They drove over the legs and heads of disabled animals with tractors; they routinely skinned heads, bellies, sides and rumps, removed legs, ears, horns, and tails, and began eviscerating cattle that were alive.
“When a cow arrives at the first hind-legger [who removes the legs], usually the legger tries to make a cut to start skinning out the leg. But it’s hard to do that when the cow is kicking violently. A lot of times the leggers’ll take their clippers and cut off the cow’s leg right below the knee–the skinny part. The cow’ll continue to kick, but it don’t have that long of a reach.”
“Outside of the weak ones, just about every cow I stunned had to be hit between three and five times just to get it to go down. There were plenty of times you’d have to make a big hole in their head, shooting them eight or nine times. And they’d still be alive. I remember one time I saw the other knocker at the plant shoot a bull twelve times, and still it wouldn’t go down. “
“Sometimes a steer would get its head stuck in the restrainer [the conveyance that cattle ride up to the stun operator in]. You couldn’t stun it at that point, so you’d end up cutting its head off while the steer was still alive. Or, there’ve been a lot of cases where the beef almost falls through the restrainer, and it struggles and twists so bad that the restrainer wouldn’t move. A lot of times what happens is we just chop the leg off. We do it with a saw.”
“Sometimes they go pretty far. Sometimes they have all the skin out and they’re all peeled. Sometimes you can tell they’re alive because when you look at their eyes, you can see the tears of a cow. And their eyes are moving and everything. But mainly they just make a lot of noise and are trying to kick.”
“Cows that get hurt, they call them ‘haulers’. You take an electric winch, latch it on to one of her legs–it’s supposed to be a leg–and drag her all the way through he kill alley to the knocking box. You can always tell them because when they come out on the line, they’re covered with cow shit from being drug through the kill alley. If you can’t get her leg, it goes around her neck, and by the time she gets up here, she’s almost dead. It’s literally strangling her.”
“I’ve seen beef still alive at the flankers, more often at the ‘ears and horns’. That’s a long way. I’ve seen them over where they take the hide off with the down-puller. I’ve heard them moo when people with air knives were trying to take the hide off. I think it’s cruel for the animal to be dying little by little while everybody’s doing their various jobs on it.”
‘The majority of the cows they hang up, the majority of them are still alive. They open them up. Skin them. They’re still alive. They’re skinned out. Their feet are cut off. They have their eyes wide open and they’re crying. They’re yelling, and you can see their eyes popping out.”
“I’ve seen cattle dragged and choked, knocked four, five, ten times. I’ve found them alive clear over to the rump stand. Takes them about ten minutes to get to the rump stand. That’s after they’ve been completely legged [had their legs removed] and run through an electrical shock system too [to facilitate bleeding]. They’re up there sucking in air and bellowing. Their eyes bugging out.”
I also found during my investigation that it wasn’t just the animals and consumers who are victims of multinational corporate greed, but the workers are victims as well. Many of these operations have 100 percent and higher turnover rates per year. It’s the most dangerous industry in the country. Workers are chewed up and spit out. During the course of the investigation, I documented people who had lost fingers, limbs, had breasts caught in machines, people who had been burned and stabbed, people who had been crushed by falling animals, people who had been killed or who dropped dead on the line. But the real danger to the workers lies in repetitive motion illnesses. Due to exorbitant line speeds, in the last 15 years, we’ve seen a 1000 percent increase in cumulative trauma disorders. Even the meat industry itself reports that at current line speeds, workers’ bodies are physically used up after 5 years. In fact, that’s why these companies intentionally recruit illegal workers from places like Mexico–that completely and conveniently protects them from insurance claims.
“One day when I went out to the suspect pen, two employees were using metal pipes to club some hogs to death. There had to be twenty little hogs out there that they were going to give to the rendering company. And these two guys were out there beating them to death with clubs and having a good old time.
“I went to the USDA vet, my supervisor, to complain. He said, ‘They’re of no value because they’re going to be tanked [rendered] anyway.’ So, according to my supervisor, it was all right to club those little hogs to death. They were beating them like they do those little seals in Alaska.”
“Dragging cattle with a chain and a forklift is standard practice at the plant. And that’s even after the forklift operator rolled over and crushed the head of one downer while dragging another.”
“I’ve seen them put twenty to twenty-five holes in a hog’s head trying to knock her and she was still on her feet. Her head looked like Swiss cheese. Tough gal. Sometimes they’ll use a twenty-two and shoot the hog through its eye. Or you might have to hit both eyes on the same hog.”
Sometimes cattle fall through the bottom of the restrainer and they’re still alive. And the workers have to get them up anyway they can. So they wrap a chain around it, lift it up, bust something. If it’s a leg, they’ll break the leg. If it’s the head, they’ll break the neck. It usually breaks, whatever they hook on to. You can hear the bones cracking a lot of times.”
“An employee recently told me about a cow who got her leg stuck when the floor of a truck collapsed. ‘How’d you get her out alive?’ I asked the guy. ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘we just went underneath the truck and cut her leg off.’ If somebody tells you this, you know there’s a lot of things nobody’s telling you.”
“A steer was running up the alley way and got his leg between the boards and he couldn’t get it out. They didn’t want to lose any time killing cattle and he was blocking their path, so they just used a blow torch to burn his leg off while he was alive.”
The real question isn’t why am I Vegan, but why aren’t you???
Read The Whole Article Here