USA: Pigs To The Slaughter – What Man Will Do To Intelligent, Sentient Beings.

The supply chain crisis that led to the implementation of ventilation shutdown was, in a sense, inevitable, given the structure of modern animal agriculture. Meatpacking is a classic economy of scale; large players are able to drive down their per-unit costs to such a degree that they can squeeze out smaller players, increasing their market share. Over the course of decades, the animal slaughter industry has become one of the most highly concentrated industries in the world. Eighty-five percent of beef packing in the United States is controlled by just four companies. In pork processing, 67% is controlled by the four largest firms; the number is 54% for chicken. Out of all of the high-volume pig slaughter in the country, nearly 90% of it is carried out by fewer than 30 slaughterhouses, each of which kill more than 1 million pigs per year.

That means that even a single one of those slaughterhouses coming offline can create a massive bottleneck across the industry. And in 2020, slaughter capacity was reduced by half, resulting in a supply chain backup of epic proportions. For consumers, that backup resulted in skyrocketing prices for meat. For the animals themselves, it resulted in what the industry deceptively calls “euthanasia,” but that is, in fact, in many cases an excruciatingly slow and torturous death.

In the aftermath of that crisis, the Biden administration has pledged to break up this hyperconcentration through antitrust enforcement, which could help control prices for consumers, create a fairer market for ranchers and livestock farmers and bring resilience to the supply chain in the event of another major disruption. A bill from Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. Ro Khanna, meanwhile, was recently introduced that would extend protections to meatpacking workers.

But for animals, there’s no relief on the horizon. Dr. Crystal Heath is a Berkeley-based veterinarian and a member of DxE (I count her, too, as a friend) who wants to make sure ventilation shutdown, or VSD, is never used again in future supply chain crises. She helped circulate an online petition under the name “Veterinarians Against Ventilation Shutdown,” which calls on the American Veterinary Medical Association to classify the practice as “not recommended.” She has about 3,500 veterinary professionals signed on, out of which about 1,500 are licensed veterinarians.

The request seems modest enough. But when the petition was submitted to the same effect to the AVMA House of Delegates, one delegate said that VSD needed to remain an option for the animal agriculture industry, in the likely event of another pandemic. Dr. Heath is worried that AVMA is setting the stage for allowing VSD to go forward in the future, in the event of another major supply chain disruption.

The AVMA’s scientific journal is the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, or JAVMA. “JAVMA publishes stuff that’s nothing but supportive of VSD,” Dr. Heath said. “They’re saying we’re going to have to use it again, like it or not.”

JAVMA published the paper that described the results of the converted trailer experiment, and essentially endorsed the method. Responding to two letters to the editor in JAVMA that were critical of the practice, the researchers who conducted the converted trailer experiment accused their critics of putting veterinarians’ lives at risk. The researchers warned that “criticism from peers may have unintended negative effects on our colleagues,” referred to the “mental health crisis” within the profession and suggested that those who were advocating ending VSD might drive the veterinarians who helped implement it to suicide.

The status quo has persisted for slaughterhouse workers, as well. To date, an estimated 86,000 workers have caught COVID-19 and at least 423 have lost their lives to it. Today, fewer workers are getting sick because of the vaccines, but one poultry worker told me that at her plant, managers had learned from the pandemic that they can keep up the same pace of production with fewer workers. They never bothered hiring new staff to replace the workers they’d lost to COVID; they’re just pushing the remaining workers even harder. That’s led to fatigue and injury, which is a hazard to workers and animals alike. Whenever workers are pushed to the brink, animal welfare suffers too, as tired workers means less focused workers, and that can mean animals not being fully killed before they get through the kill line, which means they’re eviscerated while still alive.

Continued on next page.

4 thoughts on “USA: Pigs To The Slaughter – What Man Will Do To Intelligent, Sentient Beings.”

  1. Thank you so much as always, Mark. (Why is it that the cruelest people – anag farmers and execs – are also the MOST cowardly and whiny? Who’s the victim?)

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  2. Thanks Mark. I failed to read Matt Johnsons and DXE FB page until now, having myself relocated to Ireland with new device and cant login to FB! Will forward this post to other social media, this cannot be let go under the radar else it will become the casual “norm” for any event eg.no ammo for bolt gun, lost keys! In the report the torturous deaths are being described as a Depopulation and this really does smack of Auschwitz. I cry in despair at the cold calculations. Please run an update on Matt Johnsons trial and where he is being held so that we may write letters of support to him. Thanks Di Donnelly

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    1. And I just received this email with more detail, it references the following link, with a message from Matt:

      https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSewmlouYweqeszzTywfv2sqoH6s9_3Fy2Uw97wjRu_-PyqTDw/viewform

      “I’m heading to Iowa later this week to visit my family for possibly the last time in a while. Later this month, I start a felony trial where I’m facing up to 8 years in prison for investigating Iowa’s largest “pork” producer and rescuing a sick piglet named Gilly.

      It happened in the spring of last year amid widespread COVID outbreaks at slaughterhouses nationwide. An employee whistleblower tipped us off about Iowa Select Farms — unable to send pigs to slaughter — using a gruesome mass kill method called “ventilation shutdown” or VSD. Thousands of pigs were loaded into a shed, the vents were sealed off, and heat and steam were pumped inside to kill them in an agonizing, slow death. With a team of investigators, I helped capture the horrific process on camera and sent it to the media.

      The exposé garnered support from millions of people, but the authorities in Iowa decided to prosecute me instead of the animal-abusing company. And Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds stood by the factory farms too. Less than 2 weeks after the investigation was publicized, Governor Reynolds signed Iowa’s third ag-gag law, creating a new crime called “food operation trespass” which I was later charged under.

      But you know what? I consider it a blessing in disguise.

      My trial now has the opportunity to challenge the constitutionality of ag-gag laws and establish a precedent for a new wave of anti-ag-gag legislation. Imagine if instead of covering up animal cruelty, our laws gave ordinary people the right to see inside these places, and even the right to rescue sick and suffering animals. That’s what is at stake in this trial. And that’s why I want to ask you…
      Will you join me in Iowa for this groundbreaking trial? Sign up here to register for court support during my trial and get important updates about the event.
      Whether you’re supporting in person or online, stay tuned for more updates and ways you can help.

      Thank you for your support.

      Matt”

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  3. Hi, Di, I received this email from DxE a few days ago, it indicates Matt’s trial will be in a few weeks, I hope this is helpful; visiting DxE might also provide information as the trial date nears:

    “The odds were stacked thoroughly against Gilly, literally from the day she was born. As tragic as the life of a typical pig in a factory farm is, it was considerably worse in the spring of 2020.

    As society came to grips with the new reality of a global pandemic, the brutal, profit-driven engine that is animal agriculture chugged ever forward. Slaughterhouse outbreaks spread like wildfire in unsanitary, close-quarter working environments. Infected workers were swiftly replaced by others, until eventually, there simply weren’t enough people healthy and desperate enough to maintain business-as-usual.

    They had nowhere to send the pigs.

    By now, you’ve probably heard about the brutal reality of “ventilation shutdown” faced by hundreds of thousands of “market-ready” pigs across the country. What you may not be aware of is how the supply chain disruptions impacted the smallest of victims. Under normal circumstances, piglets with a certain severity of illness or injuries are routinely killed, their market value not justifying the cost of their care. In May 2020, with the toll of COVID-19 peaking, the situation was even more grim. At Iowa Select Farms, piglets who were not “perfect” – showing any indication of a minor infection, injured leg, or really any ailment at all – were to be killed with a zephyr gun that would send a bolt to their head.

    When DxE investigators Linda Cridge and Matt Johnson found Gilly, she had a fever, wounds on her legs, and a facial infection later determined to be Streptococcus bacteria.

    She would have never stood a chance. So we rescued her.

    Courageous DxE investigators, supported by thousands of people like you, carried her out of that hellhole, got her to the vet, and brought her to her forever sanctuary home. For a few weeks it looked like she might not make it, but she pulled through and is doing well today.

    In return, Matt and Linda were charged with felony burglary.

    With Matt’s trial less than three weeks away, Gilly stands as an ambassador of both the barbaric reality of the world as it is, and a ray of hope for what it can become. The people of Iowa will soon decide if rescuing animals is a crime, or simply the right thing to do. And as we prepare for our first trial of 2022, I am grateful that you are there with us along the way.

    Thank you,
    Almira”

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