You can't ignore it this time. Through the grainy lens of an undercover camera, the world can see the true origins of that burger, steak or Nike shoe. And try as we may to conveniently isolate this incident as the acts of a few rogue plant workers, this is the real face of U.S. meat production. No matter how you feel about the more than 10 billion animals slaughtered annually for our human use, the medieval display of cruelty caught on tape this time is so offensive it can't be dismissed as simply part and parcel with our consumption habits. Of course, the beef industry calls this an isolated case.
Say what they will, but the facts remain: 143 million pounds of beef -- i.e., cows -- recalled by the USDA because some of the "downer" cattle were beaten, abused and horrifically treated, then eventually slaughtered for your kids' lunch program. These downers--deformed and unable to walk or only with great agony--are usually routinely discarded and don't enter the food supply due to various health reasons. But not only were these sentient creatures injured, diseased and--we can only assume--in terrible pain, they were abused without mercy on their way to a terrifying slaughter. At what point do we stop, take a look around at the damage we're causing on the environment, on its creatures and, by extension, ourselves?
Part of me is always pleased when such an uncomfortable piece of footage surfaces like this one from The Humane Society, the nation's largest animal welfare organization. Nothing tells the story of our ever more detached and remote relationship with the food that ends up on our plate than the goings on of America's slaughter facilities (euphemistically called "animal processing plants" by the industry). Each hour, over a million animals meet their demise for our consumption and use. To many, that's simply the natural order of things--albeit a completely and utterly unnatural version by any reasonable standard. But it will take the most ardent beef booster to dance around this recent abuse, covertly brought to light, and not be moved to start adjusting their relationship with the meat on their plate.