Regaining our Perspective: Raising Awareness of our Precious Animal & Plant Heritage

Sunday, 7 October 2012

The Religious Endorsement of Animal Suffering

Extract from "The Theos - Rights of Animals, by Reverend Andrew Linzey
(taken from Animals in Christianity)


"For Catholic theology, steeped as it is in scholasticism, animals have no moral status. If we have any duties to them, they are indirect, owing to some human interest involved. Animals are not rational like human beings and therefore cannot possess immortal souls. Even the most hard-boiled scholastic would now probably admit that animals feel some pain but, if so, their pain is not regarded as morally relevant or truly analogous to human pain. In consequence, animals have no rights. ‘Zoophilists often lose sight of the end for which animals, irrational creatures were created by God, viz., the service and use of man,’ argues the Dictionary of Moral Theology. ‘In fact, Catholic moral doctrine teaches that animals have no rights on the part of man."

I would like to comment on the above. 

Firstly, it is more accurate to note that both Catholic and non-Catholic theology is more steeped in a patriarchal mishmash of traditionalist mythology and superstitious mumbo-jumbo than "scholasticism". The latter term should be reserved for the serious study of real subject matter. 

Secondly, it is on the basis of the pernicious religious nonsense that has been dished up to the gullible unquestioning mind over the past few thousand years, that humanity has formed a breathtakingly inaccurate idea that it is the only species that matters on this earth, and that all the rest of our ecology is here for our use and pleasure. We couldn't be more incorrect in this assertion.

Our duties being "indirect" towards animals, owing "merely to some human interest involved" is the exact thinking that has allowed the meat industry to persist in its barbaric treatment of animals in the slaughterhouses of the world. By this time, the reader might well have noted the content of Pukeheads so I won't recap all the detail here, but follow the link if you really want to see what's in your meat.

Animals cannot possess immortal souls. Yes - but then, neither does mankind possess an immortal soul, does he? When you get over the fairy story and go and look at the hard truths of the background to the religious-babble on which we've been fed, you will realise that we just are another finite species with a limited time, in a planetary ecosystem that we are destroying frighteningly quickly. No immortality for us.

Animals might feel some pain, 'but their pain is not regarded as morally relevant or truly analogous to human pain". What utter nonsense. How would we know this? Is there some "pain meter" somewhere which can objectively measure the pain an individual (man or animal) can feel? And of course we think their pain is not as important as ours, because we're writing the script! I'm sure if a rhinocerous stampedes over your ribcage leaving your guts splattered all over the African savanna, it's not likely to think that human pain is as relevant as its own when it's being hacked to death with pangas and having its horn gouged out with chainsaws. It's a matter of whose interest is being represented in the articles being written. And since humans write the articles, there's a large amount of speciesist bollocks that is going to find its way into print. It's a case of mind over matter. Humans don't mind and animals don't matter.

And as far as "irrational creatures being created by God viz. the service and use of man", consider The following :

  • chickens have been shown to have mathematical abilities
  • dolphins have shown evidence of knowledge of the economics of supply and demand, 
  • chimpanzees make and use tools and hunt in organised groups, are capable of empathy, altruism and self-awareness, and perform better than humans in certain number memory tests, 
  • elephants exhibit self awareness, recognising themselves in a mirror, and of course their great social traditions of mutual comfort and mourning their dead are well known. 
  • cephalopods (includes octopuses) demonstrate innate curiosity, an ability to learn and use tools and have folded brain lobes, like ourselves
  • crows make tools to snare food, and demonstrate learning from their elders, 
  • squirrels use deception to thwart predators, and mask their own smell with rattlesnake scent, as well as constructing 3-dimensional mapping in the brain to locate caches of buried nuts
  • And pigs? They're the smartest, cleanest domestic animals known, moving cursors on video screens, and discerning familiar from unfamiliar marks. Pigs learn as quickly as chimpanzees and in an experiment demonstrate cognitive self-awareness using mirrors.  

The following 3 passages are dedicated to the ignorant religious among us who think that animals do not experience pain as we do :

"Once they are hung upside down, the rabbits have their heads sawed off as they cry out in pain. According to inspectors, workers "use a dull knife and have to keep using it over and over to decapitate the rabbit. The workers were having to try three and four times to remove the rabbit's head. A worker had numerous scratches and bite marks from the rabbits struggling to survive as he was killing them", the inspectors told us "the rabbits will cry almost like an infant with loud shrieking noises".

"Workers open the hide on the legs, the stomach, the neck; they cut off the feet while the cow is breathing. It makes noise. "It's looking around" said one worker. "Cows can get seven minutes down the line and still be alive. I've been up to the side-puller where they are alive. All the hide is stripped out down to the neck there", said another. "Their eyes look like they're popping out. I feel bad that I have to do my job on them," explained a third.

"Sometimes they go pretty far. Sometimes they have all the skin out and they're all peeled. Sometimes you can tell they are alive because when you look at their eyes, you can see the tears of a cow".
(Slaughterhouse, Gail A. Eisnitz)

I would sincerely like to take the next religious ignoramus that tells me that animals don't feel the pain we do, and stick a hook through their ankles, hang them upside down and peel off their flesh. We will see if they make more noise than the rabbits, cows and pigs of the world, as 'they die piece by piece'.

(And for the record - none of us were created by God. We evolved - period. I sometimes think that ancestors of the meat and petfood industries were involved in writing the early religious material, because of its inherent bias against animals.)

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

The Great Protein Lie

I have noticed a rather interesting phenomenon lately, when we happen to mention that we are vegetarian : almost without exception, the comment in response is something like this :

"Oh well, I guess that makes sense - you're now in your middle age and the body doesn't need as much protein as before". And somebody else commented "You're going to have to be careful as you get older - a pure vegetarian diet will need to be supplemented with meat, otherwise there could be problems".

Oh woe to the vegan/vegetarian - they're all on course for their bodies to fall apart as they age, unless they resort to meat protein!

Clearly, this is another of those popular "old wives tale" - misconceptions at best, and at worst it's a deliberately orchestrated effort by the pro-meat lobby to get the general public to eat more meat.

Let's kill the lie straight away - "An acre of cereal produces five times more protein than an acre used for meat production; legumes such as beans, peas and lentils can produce 10 times more protein and, in the case of soya, 30 times more." - ("Meat Makes the Rich Ill, and the Poor Hungry" - Jeremy Rifkin)

And from the same source, it can be noted that 157 million tonnes of cereals, vegetable protein and legumes are fed to animals annually, to produce 28 million tonnes of animal protein. Imagine if that plant material were to be funnelled instead into feeding humanity? And who benefits? Why the global corporations which supply the world's seed, chemicals, cattle and which control the slaughterhouses, the sale and distribution of meat of course!

It's a stark thought that 80 per cent of the world’s hungry children live in countries which have food surpluses which are fed to animals for consumption by the affluent in other countries.  And while diseases of affluence such as heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and cancer are brought on by eating animal products, the world’s poor are dying from diseases of poverty. And as another example, consider that almost the entire population of India and China, nearly two billion people, could be fed on the protein consumed and largely wasted by the United States’ beef herd.(Ibid.)

Do you want to Feed the World  ? It's easy! See also Plant based protein sources and also Obtaining adequate protein. Incidentally, while on the latter page, be sure to also look at Mad cow 1 and 2, and also Mad Cow Researchers.

"Dying for some lunch" takes on a new meaning.... 

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Shame the Premier!

Shame on Helen Zille - Premier of the Western Cape for withdrawing the invitation to the Landmark foundation to attend the Animal Welfare Summit. The reasons will be noted in the Ozinsky letter at the bottom of this posting.

Bowing to pressure from the farmer lobby, the Western Cape "Environment" Minister Anton Bredell saw fit to pressure Cape Nature to issue 480 permits for farmers to kill black backed jackals and caracals at a rate of 5 each per day per permit, for 6 months - a possible total of nearly 900 000 predators.

The background to the "Bredell Cull" can be read on this link :

I'm not sure that Mr Bredell is even qualified for his post. An "environment minister" who says the following :

"Bredell said that Smuts “is trying to make out I’m a mass murderer. He always brings up the poor jackal and the cruelty of the farmers, but I have never shown him the cruelty meted out to sheep. Cruelty has two sides,” he added."

Tsk, Mr Bredell. Do you not understand anything about the ecosystem and natural predation? Jackals don't "mete out cruelty" to sheep or any other animal. To mete out cruelty, you need to have an established moral code and to act in a manner which contravenes this code. Jackals and other natural predators are just that - natural predators preying on the weak and the defenceless as nature has intended. They no more set out to be "cruel" than any other predator when hunting their prey. If you learn nothing else about your job, please learn that. The only predator who is capable of "meting out cruelty" is man - and we do it far too often with too little conscience.

That these animals are predating on sheep is not their "fault". To the contrary, far too much expansion of intensified stock farming has been permitted, encroaching on natural habitats. It is logical that there are going to be some losses, if these farms are inadequately fenced. I'm sure adequate fencing is going to cost an arm and a leg - mainly because these farms are now so huge, it's going to be prohibitively expensive. But there's a message in that, isn't there? Why so big? Because....(and the answer includes currency symbols - and lots (and lots) of zeroes).

So - it's much easier to just kill the predators isn't it? Another demonstration of blinkered bureaucratic philistine pig-ignorance in action. Have any of these people asked themselves what the elimination of natural species in their habitats is going to do to the balance of nature in the local ecosystem? Everything in nature exists in harmonic balance - and it's self-regulating. To really screw things up, we introduce humans into the dynamic, with their ill-conceived predefined views on what can and can't be permitted - and the reasons for the decisions are always based on money, aren't they? How long do we consider it might be for the species that the jackals and caracals naturally predate on, to explode in numbers? Hares and small rodents etc. Do we really want an unchecked increase in these animals?

I can assure Mr Bredell that the jackals and caracals did not suddenly "explode" into huge populations because they perceived some freebie- lamb on the horizon. The population grew naturally and is sustained by keeping other species (that we often view as a nuisance) in check. But now eliminate the predator, and what will be the result? Clever Mr Bredell. If you were in my government, you'd pick up your severance cheque at the door and be gone in an instant.  Unqualified for the job. And that's another bone I'd want to pick with Helen Zille - ill-conceived job selection.

"People are going to die if they can't eat lamb or mutton - the poor will starve". Really? Can the poor afford to buy this meat at between R50 and R70 a kilogram? I don't think so. But the power of the poor farmer's vote must not be underestimated - especially as the permits were issued shortly before a by-election in this region.

It's a real lesson in craven yellow-bellied arse-licking to see how low the politicians will go to ensure they get their next pay cheque. I was a DA supporter in the last election. This will no longer be the case in the future, and I will make everyone I can, and who has an environmental conscience, aware of this issue to get them to change their vote as well.

It's a pity that politicians have no integrity and that they'll say anything to get your vote. They then revert to type after the election and the voter can go and suck eggs. So I'm not convinced the ANC is a better option. But maybe my vote will be used as a strategic vote "against" rather than a vote "for".

Below is the text of a public statement by Max Ozinsky, MPL o.b.o ANC Western Cape

Zille withdraws Landmark Foundation invitation - Max Ozinsky
Max Ozinsky
30 March 2012

Premier acted after organisation initiated legal action against WCapegovt over hunting licenses

ANC Statement on Premier's withdrawal of invitation to Landmark Foundation to attend Animal Welfare Summit

29 March 2012

DA Premier Zille claims to believe in our constitution and an open society. Yet day by day her actions contradict her words.

In her latest attack on the constitutional rights of citizens of the Western Cape and open government, Premier Zille has withdrawn an invitation she had personally made to the Landmark Foundation to attend an Animal Welfare Summit being organised by her office for next week.

The reason given for the withdrawal of the invitation is that the Landmark Foundation has initiated legal action against the Western Cape provincial government and CapeNature to ensure that they apply the Threatened and Protected Species (TAPS) regulations under the Biodiversity Act and stop the Bredell cull which is resulting in the deaths of thousands of protected animals, such as leopards. The withdrawal of the invitation follows the unilateral cancellation of a signed agreement between CapeNature and the Landmark Foundation, merely because they disagreed with the issuing of hundreds of hunting permits on instruction of MEC Bredell.

The Landmark Foundation is a world leading NGO in sustainable conservation methods. In the Western Cape it has pioneered projects to study and protect endangered predators such as leopards. It has led the campaign against the Bredell cull and recently began legal action against Zille's government for its refusal to implement legislation protecting threatened and protected species.

In an open society, the fact that an individual or organisation disagrees with government, or even takes government to court, does not remove their rights to participate in policy formulation, or to engage with government.

However Premier Zille does not like to hear from those who disagree with her views. Zille has long ago made her mind up that the votes of farmers are more important than the conservation of protected species like leopards. That is why after meeting only farmers in 2010, she instructed MEC Bredell to ensure that hundreds of hunting licences were issued to farmers, without following any due process, and in contravention of the Taps regulations and the laws governing CapeNature.

It is clear that Premier Zille is scared that if the Landmark Foundation attends the summit, her policies, which threaten the survival of leopards, one of the big five, in the Western Cape, will not be supported.

Unfortunately for Premier Zille in a democratic society there are many view points. All citizens, whatever their opinion, have the right to engage with government. By refusing to allow a key and world leading NGO to participate in the summit, Zille shows that her commitment to an open democracy and our constitution is merely lip service. Her actions speak much louder than her words.

Statement issued by Max Ozinsky, MPL, on behalf of the ANC Western Cape, March 30 2012 - with Bool Smuts.

Monday, 17 September 2012

The Law of Unintended Consequence

This piece follows from an article that appeared a little while ago in the New York Times, entitled "The Ecology of Disease".

The article refers to a developing model of infectious disease which shows that most epidemics that affect humans (e.g. AIDS, Ebola, West Nile, Lyme disease - plus hundreds more), are a result of the impacts man makes on his natural environment. It has been found that 60% of emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic (i.e. jump the species barrier from animals to man), with 66% of the animal hosts being wildlife.

In other words, what we do out there in previously virgin wilderness, is coming back to bite us. Humans do not understand the ecological web of life and its complex interrelationships. The best we can do is for our academics to undertake specialist fields of study in response to observed events, but we can in no way have a large scale "predictive view" of the likely effect on an undisturbed ecosystem before we go in there boots and all and mess it up. I'm not sure that the majority of humans care enough to want to try and find out beforehand anyway - I think they're only too happy to get on with plundering natures larder of goodies.

An ILRI study revealed that more than 2 million people die annually from diseases spreading from wild and domestic animals. And the treatment of animals being kept in poor countries seems to have the effect of magnifying the animal borne diseases. Probably not surprising, since poor housing and treatment of animals increases stress which compromises immune systems, plus increased pathogen load and viral mutation in the soup of death and decay. Words like "newly virulent" or "newly drug-resistant" should also ring alarm bells.

Examples of how this spread occurs, can be seen in the Nipah and Hendra viruses spread from the flying fox (fruit bats), which have co-evolved alongside these viruses. Naturally they have very little effect on the bats, but when man encroached on the natural environment, it is suspected that a forest piggery was contaminated with Nipah when partially consumed fruit was dropped. The pigs ate this and mutated the virus which jumped the species barrier to man. Hendra was different, where suburbanisation lured forest dwelling bats into new habitats in backyards in Australia.
According to experts, emerging diseases have quadrupled over the last half century, largely due to human encroachment, especially into the disease hotspots which are mainly in tropical regions. And with speedy modern transport and booming wildlife trafficking, the potential for a serious outbreak in a large population centre is looming. Other examples include a 4% increase in the deforestation of the Amazon basin, causing a 50% increase in malaria. And it also includes a spread of the carriers (e.g. mosquitoes) to vectors like birds which are habitual garden visitors. In other words "the virus took advantage of species that do well around people" (Marm Kilpatrick, UC Santa Cruz). The American robin is playing a pivotal role in the spread of West Nile Disease in the US.

Lyme disease is a product of the fragmentation of large forests and predators fleeing the development, allowing the multiplication of white footed mice which become specialist reservoirs of the disease due to their poor immune systems. When man invades an ecosystem, most of the time he erodes biodiversity and the species playing protective roles are usually most affected. The species acting as carrier-reservoirs then proliferate. Nature finds a way.

According to Simon Anthony, a molecular virologist at Columbia university, "it's not about keeping pristine forests pristine and free of people, it learning how to do things sustainably". I beg to differ and it's not in questioning the expertise of Mr Anthony. But it is about his possibly utopian view that those in the vanguard of plundering the natural ecosystems of the world are going to stop and undertake careful scientific studies assessing risks beforehand, or are going to listen to the warnings expressed by the academic community.

There's no sensitive middle of the road way to go about plundering forests sustainably - besides, humans are not a sensitive middle of the road species - we are the single greatest invasive species in the world today and we will stop at nothing to attain our goals - usually related to huge piles of money.

It's called profit and it's spelled out in the business plans of large corporate boardrooms across the globe, and those plans are not going to add an extra layer of cost by undertaking expensive and time consuming epidemiological assessments in order to achieve what is seen by the captains of industry as only a fair to moderate risk mitigation. They have shareholders to keep happy. The ordinary people are engaged at the coalface after the fact to execute the decisions. If they are affected in any way or disease spread occurs in larger populations, this is called "shit happens" and it's not hard to throw a blanket of doubt around the causal chain or to deny management's culpability on the grounds of their not doing it with malice aforethought. Who can prove they knew they were going to cause outbreaks of disease due to their actions? These are complex ecological systems and the interrelationships are not yet well understood, so can they be blamed?

I call it "rushing in where angels fear to tread", and we are very soon going to be paid back in spades for what we are doing to the Earth and its fragile ecosystems.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Pukeheads and Plethoras of Pathogens

WHAT!??  What's a pukehead?

I'm busy reading "Slaughterhouse" by Gail Eisnitz, which is "the shocking story of the greed, neglect and inhumane treatment inside the U.S. meat industry". The book was first published in 1997, and it would seem rather unlikely that anything much would have changed in the interim. I will not go into graphic descriptions here of the atrocities visited on poor, helpless animals by humans who have lost any semblance of decency or caring for their fellow sentient beings, but I will describe the filth that is allowed to contaminate the meat which is then passed on to the consumer.

The statistics I quote below are all based on the book, and therefore are as at 1997 - I have little doubt they are now at least the same, or possibly even worse.

Did you realise that the CDC (US Centres for Disease Control) estimates between 6.5 and 81 million cases of food poisoning occur each year in the US? One out of 3 Americans suffers a foodborne illness each year, and roughly half a million of those cases require hospitalisation. Deaths from food poisoning quadrupled after deregulation of food, from 2000 in 1984 to 9000 in 1994, the major source of infection being foods of animal origin. As at 1997, the CDC estimated 40 000 cases of E.coli 0157:H7 annually. Since reporting of 0157:H7 poisoning is not mandatory in every US state, this figure is also probably understated, and many doctors and hospitals at the time didn't even know how to test for it.

Poultry has had the reputation of being the leading foodborne carrier of illness, sickening and killing and also causing chronic disabilities like arthritis, but E.coli 0157:H7 naturally generates considerable attention these days.

Hamburgers contain meat from as many as 100 different animals, and one infected animal can cross-contaminate 16 tonnes of beef. The grinding process creates a large surface area for bacterial habitation and hamburger meat is said to be "especially hospitable".

Furthermore, the USDA (US Dept of Agriculture) inspectors effectively had their hands tied when they were prohibited from stopping production lines due to filth contamination on the meat, and were only permitted to inspect for "pathogens" on carcasses whizzing by at a phenomenal rate per minute - an impossible task. Besides, the USDA did not want to adopt rapid in-situ microbial testing in abbatoirs, and were rather more complicit with big meat producers in condoning higher production rates.

Technological innovation in the 1970's made high volume poultry slaughter possible (USDA- approved), resulting in a dramatic increase in contaminated birds. Faecal contamination on skin and feathers gets inhaled by live birds in the scald tank (they go in there alive), and hot water opens the pores, allowing pathogens to enter. The defeathering machines' pounding creates an aerosol of faecal-contaminated water which is beaten into the birds. Water in the chill tanks has been named "faecal soup" due to all the filth and bacteria in them. Clean birds entering the tank (as all birds will) are assured of cross-contamination. And further contamination occurs when the automatic evisceration machines rip open intestines, spilling faecal material into the birds' body cavities. Prior to 1978, inspectors had condemned any bird with faecal contamination inside the body cavity. After 1978, faeces were reclassified from "dangerous contaminant" to (wait for it) "cosmetic blemish"! Inspectors condemned fewer birds and consumers ate the rest.

The US stayed with water chilling rather than moving to air chilling, because federal regulations permitted each carcass to soak up to 8% extra water (by 1997) - water that the consumer was paying for per kilo in the supermarket. As Gail Eisnitz put it so delicately "this enables the industry to sell hundreds of millions of gallons of germ-filled water at poultry meat prices". As USDA microbiologist Gerald Kuester put it "there are fifty points during processing where cross contamination can occur. At the end of the line, the birds are no cleaner than if they'd been dipped in a toilet".

(Former) Purdue worker Donna Bazemore's testimony to congress, noted that ;

"The floors are covered with grease, fat, sand and roaches. Some of the flying roaches were huge - up to 4 to 5 inches long. There are flies all around, including big blowflies. Employees are constantly chewing and spitting out snuff and tobacco on the floor. There is so much faecal contamination on the floor from chickens, that it kept getting into one worker's boots and burnt his feet so badly his toenails had to be amputated. The company won't allow workers to leave the line when they have to go to the bathroom....sometimes they have to relieve themselves on the floor. After they are hung, birds sometimes fall off into the drain that runs down the middle of the line. This is where roaches, intestines, diseased parts, faecal contamination and blood are washed down. Workers get sick to their stomachs into the drain - which is a lot less sanitary than anybody's toilet. The Perdue supervisors told us to take the fallen chickens out of the drain and send them back down the line."

Another worker noted :  "I've seen birds fall on the floor and foremen tell workers to put them back on the line without washing. And I know we didn't condemn those that fell on the floor and were heavily soiled. I've seen birds with cancerous tumours come through regularly, sometimes all day long. While on quality control, I'd pull off those I saw, but I couldn't possibly catch them all. Right after I put them in the condemn barrel, the foremen would have the workers hang them back on the line."

One of the USDA inspectors noted that the leadership at the USDA changed the standards so that "modern means dirty". "We used to stop production for hours if necessary to get the facility cleaned up. By the time I left, anyone who tried to do that would have to find another job.

Bazemore noted in a later testimony "workers keep finding rats and fat cockroaches in the chill tanks where chickens soak together - both the rats and their droppings. Women still have to keep on relieving themselves on the floor because there are not enough bathroom breaks. Birds still fall on the floor and get put back on the line. Employees are in trouble if they don't try to slip the birds back in. Gall birds (i.e. with ruptured gall bladders) keep going out despite green pus in their intestines that is intensely painful when it gets in workers eyes. Diseased birds still go out although they are so sick that mucous backs up into their lungs."

An employee at a third chicken plant said "I personally have seen rotten meat - you can tell by the odour. This rotten meat is mixed with fresh meat and sold for baby food. You can see the worms inside the meat." Another worker said  "in the department where chicken bones were ground up and processed into chicken franks and bologna, almost continuously the bones had an awful foul odour. Sometimes they came from other plants and had been sitting for days. Often there were maggots on them. These bones were never cleaned off and so the maggots were ground up with everything else and remained in the final product."

One of the earliest studies conducted at a model poultry operation in Puerto Rico in 1987 put the number of contaminated birds coming out of the chill tank at 76%. USDA studies in 1992 put contamination at 58% before going into the chill tank, and 72% after the communal bath. The USDA forced the resignation of the microbiologist who wanted to publish these findings, for not agreeing to a "sanitised version" of the report.

After 6 different "poultry processing improvements", salmonella was still contaminating 48% of the birds coming out of the chill tanks. Campylobacter (twice as frequent as salmonella) is now the number one cause of gastroenteritis in the US, causing hundreds of deaths annually. In 1991, a USDA microbiologist found the bacteria present in 98% of store-bought chickens. Food Safety Review (a USDA publication) reported that "heavily contaminated flocks may result in a contamination rate of 100% for finished products". Campylobacter was found on 100% of chickens coming out of chill tanks.  

That's the hors doeuvre. Let's move on to cows, which is where the title of this blog becomes relevant. Beef? Same story as chickens.

"Inspectors who have attempted to stop the production line have been reprimanded, re-assigned, physically attacked by plant employees, and then disciplined for being in fights, had their performance appraisals lowered, been placed under criminal investigation, fired, or subjected to enough retaliation to 'neutralise them'."

While epidemiologists estimate that one speck of faeces can contain millions of E.coli 0157:H7 microbes and that one to 10 microbes can kill a child, USDA bureaucrats were counting how many visible smears of cow faeces they would overlook on each animal. To create an illusion of Federal oversight, inspectors were authorised to reinspect 6 sides of beef (3 cows) out of 3200 cattle per shift. That's 3/10 of 1 percent of the meat leaving the plant being inspected - with 100% of the meat stamped "US Inspected and Passed".

Veterinarians told inspectors "you're not shit inspectors anymore - you're pathology inspectors only". But nobody else was assigned the task of being a "shit inspector". Faecal contamination came down the line  - up to 1 foot smears - as well as flukes (liver parasites), grubs (wormlike fly larvae that burrow into the cow's skin and work their way through the body), abscesses (encapsulated infections filled with pus), hide, hair  and ingesta (partially digested food found in the stomach or aesophagus).

Company managers ordered employees to cut open abscesses and let them drain on healthy portions of meat, instead of trimming off infected areas. Plant employees report buying a pre-cooked roast and cutting into a healthy abscess. Manure, hair, hide, metal and chewing tobacco regularly contaminate products that used to be clean. Cactus thorns stay in beef tongues because the lines are moving too fast for workers to remove them. Cows are slaughtered that have been dead on arrival, some so long they are ice cold. Plant employees who think inspectors aren't looking, pull out "retain tags" (retain carcass for further inspection) and ship these out without trimming off open pus-filled abscesses. Inedible meat products full of disease are mixed with edible products. One firm shipped out meat so old, it was green when trimmed.

A Nebraska inspector smuggled head meat out of a plant, to run an unauthorised check. He found 24% of the heads reaching the head boning table for boxing, to be contaminated with hair, dirt, hide and ingesta. The type of heads getting through , included those known in the industry as "pukeheads" are so filled with partially digested food that contamination oozes into the outer surfaces of the head and cross-contaminates others. Head meat usually winds up in burgers.

Every day, carcasses fall on the floor and are not trimmed before the company puts them back on the line. Floors are filthy, covered with blood, grease, faeces, pus from abscesses and mud. A lot gets embedded into the meat from high-pressure carcass sprays. There are pools of urine on the viscera table that regularly contacts products.... the drains are so often stopped-up, filthy water splashes on the carcasses even if they don't fall off the rail. "

I can sense the South Africans (at least) getting a little smug and comfortable - since we are talking about a dysfunctional US industry hell-bent on supersonic production speeds and devil take the hindmost. But this is South Africa and things are different here.  The problem with this thinking is we don't know. We have no well -established food activists writing about local conditions and there are few if any reports about conditions in local abbatoirs or private processing plants. The South African meat industry, like many other things South African, is very opaque.  What we do know is that we live in a competitive world and that international trade barriers have come down, so it's a fair bet that production line speeds here receive as much emphasis as they do in the USA. There may also be American-owned production plants in this country. Do we observe proper health protocols, or do we pay lip-service to consumer health? Will the meat packing plants give us an honest answer if anyone asked? I'm not taking any bets - remember we seem to leap on anything American with cries of joy, believing it to be superior to our own. This is also possibly true of meat production methods - and certainly meats are imported into our country. From whence do they come?

Isn't it a shame that it's only the efforts of a small number of very dedicated activists who are prepared to take on the mega- food producers and strive to get them to behave in a civilized humane manner, as well as conduct their affairs in a hygienic way? It should be human nature to be humane and clean, but it's not.

If we weren't vegetarians before starting to read this book, we'd certainly be so by now. It makes no sense to be playing Russian roulette at the dinner table. Which reminds me - it's nearly supper time.

Whatever you're eating tonight - beef, lamb, pork, chicken, or even maybe burgers or chicken or pork frankfurters - enjoy it and savour each mouthful. It may be your last. Your next of kin are, sadly, unlikely to prevail against the meat industry in bringing a civil suit - even if they can prove it was the meat that did the dirty deed.

(Acknowledgements for most of the material for this blog, with thanks : Gail Eisnitz).

Friday, 14 September 2012

Of Rhinos and Rawballs

(Originally written 26 August 2011)

This, hot off the press in the wake of the disgusting wanton destruction of 2 rhinos at Aquila game reserve in the Western Cape on 25 August. In particular ABSA, the first rhino reintroduced back into the Western Cape after they had been all shot out in the previous century by so-called "sportsmen", and who had fathered new offspring, met a terrible and protracted end, taking 5 days to die. Another rhino was hacked to death with machetes and pangas in order that the poachers could take the horns.

Animals - all animals - are precious to us. They are uncorrupted and unspoiled. They know a thing or 2 about getting on with the business of living and not screwing everything up for everything else in the ecosystem. Of course they do - they are a product of nature - it's only man who is utterly and completely corrupt, who has surrendered (willingly, I might add) his soul and integrity for a fast buck, for a way to scramble over the bodies of his fellow man en-route supposedly to instant fame, "success" and riches (not necessarily in that order).

You see humankind has been given or has developed "superior intelligence" in order to take dominion over the earth and everything in it. The problem with this is that as a species, we're not particularly intelligent - at least all the evidence tends to point to the fact that when it comes to anyone other than the human race (and more specifically : ourselves), we are the nastiest bunch of lowlife hypocrites that ever dragged their sorry asses across the face of this planet. Monty Python sang :

"So remember when you're feeling very small and insecure
How amazingly unlikely is your birth
And pray that there's intelligent life somewhere out in space
'Cause there's bugger all down here on Earth!"

And they were right. Let's give attention to something the American comedian George Carlin said. And he may have said it as part of his comendy act, but this is deadly serious :

"We're so self-important. So arrogant. Everybody's going to save something now. Save the trees, save the bees, save the whales, save the snails. And the supreme arrogance? Save the planet! Are these people kidding? Save the planet? We don't even know how to take care of ourselves; we haven't learned how to care for one another. We're gonna save the fuckin' planet? . . . And, by the way, there's nothing wrong with the planet in the first place. The planet is fine. The people are fucked! Compared with the people, the planet is doin' great. It's been here over four billion years . . . The planet isn't goin' anywhere, folks. We are! We're goin' away. Pack your shit, we're goin' away. And we won't leave much of a trace. Thank God for that. Nothing left. Maybe a little Styrofoam. The planet will be here, and we'll be gone. Another failed mutation; another closed-end biological mistake."

Now I'm not a prude but I don't necessarily always agree with the man's choice of language, however I think he's got a point here. The Cree Indians said it in a more genteel manner :

"When the last tree is cut, when the last river has been poisoned, when the last fish has been caught, then we will find out that we can't eat money" - Cree Indian Prophecy

Think about that. "Oh it won't affect us - we can buy our way out of trouble and retire to our own private island". Oh yes? And breathe what? Sulphur Dioxide perhaps? Wake up dope. Every time you stand by and do nothing as another greedy business venture lays claim to hitherto unspoiled natural resources, you are passively condoning the ongoing pillage and destruction of our Earth. Why is there no universal agreement on a clean air policy - with deadlines for enforcement? Because it's going to cost too much to implement and it will "hurt the economy".

Gee whiz! Has anyone noticed but most of the world's economies are already a shambles - particularly the US and Eurozone. Don't blame the environmentalists - humankind's greed did it to you. And if you don't get off your fat asses and do something immediately, we are well on the way to irreversible climate change in less than 50 years. You don't have to believe it - it makes no difference. You're still going to get hurt by it. You don't have to believe in gravity either - but if you walk off a cliff, you're going to break some bones, or worse.

But let's get back to rhinos. So the ignorant masses "out there" believe that if they use a pinch of powdered rhino horn here and a touch there, they will achieve health, strength, youth and an everlasting erection. But it really is irrelevant what they believe - all that is important to the poaching syndicates is that these people are willing to part with inordinate amounts of cash in exchange for rhino horn. And that this is BIG business shows : poachers who have access to helicopters, night vision glasses, schedule 7 drugs, automatic weapons and all the wherewithal to smuggle the horn out of the country and into the willing arms of the buyers. These are not amateurs looking to make a quick buck for a bottle at the end of the week. Nope - these include doctors, lawyers, well-to-do "businessmen" etc. - one at least of whom has the cash to buy a whole bunch of rhino and then slaughter them for their horn.

So I go onto the web and google rhino poaching and follow a few links to a case where a poaching syndicate has been rounded up and is being tried (with many remands and delays). And I go through the narrative and look at the pictures, and what do I see (apart from butchery being practised on rhinos)?

I see Rawballs. Capital R.

When I was a kid, we had a name for someone displaying uncouth, lowlife appearance, evidence of bad or no manners - as the English in the last century called it "a boor" - i.e. boorish behaviour. The dictionary definition of boorish is :

Adj. 1. boorish - ill-mannered and coarse and contemptible in behavior or appearance; "was boorish and insensitive"; "the loutish manners of a bully"; "her stupid oafish husband"; "aristocratic contempt for the swinish multitude"

loutish, neanderthal, oafish, swinish, neandertal

unrefined - (used of persons and their behavior) not refined; uncouth; "how can a refined girl be drawn to such an unrefined man?"

In South Africa, we call that "a Rawball", and if you study some of the images of these poachers, you will see the sly oafish leer of the overconfident gutter rawball, who thinks they are above the law.

I pray it will not be so, and that the syndicate shown in this web reference, and all the other poaching syndicates get to reap the just rewards of their actions. And I'm thinking of something more terminal or of longer duration than their momentary ill-gotten wealth. Something cold, hard and dark. For a very long time - if they are not killed by anti-poaching patrols first.

What a Piece of Work is Man

I was walking in the garden the other day in the evening - playtime with the cats, and I stopped to marvel at them. I'm not talking about cobby bodies and big eyes and fluffy tails, but rather how they interact with each other. Nobody tells mother cat how to raise her babies - she knows already. And when she abandons a kitten, it invariably is ailing and is not going to make it - survival of the fittest. Nature knows how to ensure the vitality of the species.

And their play has only one objective - learning to hunt and kill. Bloodthirsty cats? Not at all. This is nature, red in tooth and claw. This is nature doing what it does best - surviving the fittest and letting the devil take the hindmost. This is the cat learning to use the tools it has been given to ensure it gets the next meal, for if it doesn't and it is incapable of successfully catching a meal, it will eventually die, so that the business of living can be left to the best survivors. The objective of course will be that the best surviving females mate with the strongest surviving males, and the resultant offspring share the strongest genepool.

It's only when man gets invoved and starts trying to save the weaklings who would otherwise die, that the genepool starts to decline, since a weakling's genetic line should never be allowed to exist.

Which brings me back to man - that wondrous species who has assumed dominion over the earth and everything in it - you know, the one who has managed an a relatively short period of time to screw everything up in his quest for "civilisation" and "modern living". Space doesn't permit me to list exhaustively man's greatest blunders - there are just too many of them, but let's just note a few:

- enhancing medical science. "AArrrgghh!" I hear you cry "what about the wondrous medical achievements of the past few hundred years which have extended our life expectancy?" Exactly. Medical science has created for us humans, a means to spend on average 30 to 40 more years on this planet than was the case a little more than a century ago. And at the other end of the scale to dying, we have birth. Medical science has managed to improve the mortality outlook of infants who would have died in the past. So at the front end we have more babies surviving - including the weak and ailing, and at the back end we have an average human lifespan which is now far longer. Which means more humans for longer, which means overpopulation. Sex is fun, but it's just far too easy to do and be successful at. Result - too many babies who are born, rescued by medical science and who go on to produce yet more babies.

The blunders below fall into the category of what we do with our extended extra time we've been given on the face of this planet:

- we systematically decimate the natural environment. We plunder and pillage for minerals, we deforest, we exterminate animal and plant species all the time, at a frightening rate. According to an article in the Telegraph in March 2010, as at the last biodiversity report in 2004, the Earth was losing species at a rate comparable to the mass-extinction of the dinosaurs - extinctions were happening 1000 times faster than the natural rate, and far too quickly for nature to respond by evolving new species. This extinction is being driven by destruction of natural habitat, hunting, increasing numbers of alien predators, disease and climate change.

- We pollute everything. Air, water, land, noise = i.e. the lot. Our industry is ruining the environment with its waste products, carelessly pumped into the sea, lakes or rivers, or binned and dumped in waste sites. Nuclear waste is rendering the Earth toxic for hundreds of thousands of years. Oil spills decimate natural plant and animal species far too frequently. Hundreds of tons of toxic gases get pumped into the atmosphere every year by industry. The list goes on. We are incapable of living in harmony with the Earth and the natural ecosystems. Oh no! We're too busy "taking dominion" or whatever it's called in our wonderful holy (small h) books. And do the world's industrialized nations come to the party and do anything? Not really. We love having meetings, but nothing much really comes of them. And the United States is the only signatory which refuses to ratify the Kyoto protocol on Greenhouse gas emissions to address the global warming threat. The reason? It will cost too much for American Industry to adapt processes to reduce emissions by the agreed-upon targets. Somebody please tell the dickheads that if they don't do something now nobody will be around in 50 years time to adapt these industries anyway. They will be as dead as we all are.

- We kill things. Mostly ourselves, but also anything (flora or fauna) that gets in our way, and many others that are quietly minding their own business. Doesn't matter to us. We find 'em and kill 'em. We are the only animal on Earth who kills for pleasure. Tell me, who is mentally challenged enough to gain pleasure from hunting animals? Plenty of us, apparently. We gain especial pleasure from killing each other - most often because we want others to either agree with us, belong to our club, or become our followers. This is called power, domination and control and it is achieved through wars, politics and religion. Not sure why we want to control everything and everyone, because the overwhelming evidence is that we are singularly inept at it. And our killing and controlling behaviour is encouraged by our religious rites of passage which we have adopted for ourselves. Everybody who doesn't believe what we do, must be killed, maimed or tortured into compliance. And depending on your beliefs, you're commanded to have as many babies as possible- or at least, prohibited from doing anything to prevent conception. Good old Catholicism.

This discussion is getting too depressing. Mankind (with the exception of the so-called "primitives" who were the only ones who actually had any idea of how to live in harmony with his ecosystem) is a tragic mistake. With a bit of luck we will die out soon and the planet can go about the task of erasing all trace of us and repairing the damage we have caused. As George Carlin said :

"We're so self-important. So arrogant. Everybody's going to save something now. Save the trees, save the bees, save the whales, save the snails. And the supreme arrogance? Save the planet! Are these people kidding? Save the planet? We don't even know how to take care of ourselves; we haven't learned how to care for one another. We're gonna save the fuckin' planet? . . . And, by the way, there's nothing wrong with the planet in the first place. The planet is fine. The people are fucked! Compared with the people, the planet is doin' great. It's been here over four billion years . . . The planet isn't goin' anywhere, folks. We are! We're goin' away. Pack your shit, we're goin' away. And we won't leave much of a trace. Thank God for that. Nothing left. Maybe a little Styrofoam. The planet will be here, and we'll be gone. Another failed mutation; another closed-end biological mistake."

I think he's right.