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« Take That Painkiller ... or Not | Main | More Art Metrics »

May 02, 2006

More on Elsewhere

Michael Blowhard writes:

Dear Blowhards --

* Thanks to Claire, who mentioned that the Smithsonian acquired the kitchen of Julia Child and has put it on display. (There is some justice in the museum world.) Off Googling thanks to Claire, I notice that the Smithsonian has also done a nice job of making Julia's kitchen (and a lot of Julia lore) available on the web. Be sure to make Claire's own blog a regular destination point. Claire discusses TV, supplies lots of interesting links, and recounts lively and telling anecdotes from her life -- she has the real storyteller's gift.

* Thanks also to visitor Steve, who left a couple of informative and interesting comments on my recent posting about slaughterhouses and carrots. Steve's background is a country one, and he had this to say (I've edited his comments just a bit):

I grew up on a small family farm in rural Nebraska, and the town 20 miles away had a large industrial meat packing plant. I knew several kids from my class who worked there briefly after high school. I say "briefly" because none of them could stand it for more than 3 months. And I mean literally 3 months -- I remember talking to them in the fall after graduation and they had all quit.

These were kids who grew up on a farm like myself, and they were unequivocal: it was the worst job in the world. Dangerous, filthy, degrading, impossible to get the smell of blood and guts out of clothing and hair and nostrils at the end of the day. They all saw several people badly injured on the job, and experienced first-hand the callousness of the plant management to the injuries and appalling work conditions.

This was before the industry started recruiting and bussing illegals up from the border, but you could see the direction the industry was going. They didn't want to pay to create a work environment in which non-desperate people would want to work, or pay wages that non-desperate people were willing to work at.

It's a vile industry, period. I'm not an expert in industrial design, and Iím not exactly sure what a humane meat processing plant would look like, but Iím confident it does not have to be this way. These were conscious choices made by the people at the top about what they wanted to pay their workforce and how they wanted to design their plants, and they went the inhuman route to maximize profits.

(...) I grew up on a livestock farm, where the cattle were grazed in open fields and the hogs were not crated but allowed to wander in open enclosures. And at the end of the day the cattle were "finished" in confinements and all the animals were killed for meat. There's a reasonable way to raise and slaughter animals for food. It's not always pretty, but it's far from the hell of modern industrial livestock farming.

Also, I should add that Orwell got it right -- pigs are by far the most intelligent livestock on a farm, and my Dad and I always had great affection for them. They were hell to herd into the truck to send to market -- very ornery and independent, and no doubt bored and irritable after living their lives in a fenced lot -- but I remember my father refusing to use the electric prods that other farmers would use to bring them into line.

I can picture their fear and terror in an industrial slaughterhouse, and it's always turned my stomach thinking about it.

Experience and first-hand knowledge rock. Thanks again to Claire and Steve.



posted by Michael at May 2, 2006


Steve's description of modern industrial slaughterhouses is confirmed over and over by many people in spite of efforts to hush the whole thing up. If the cruelty people would quit trying to carry every pet around on a silk pillow and put some energy into this, things might change. But they would expose themselves to retaliation from some very ruthless corporations.

They've tried to sneak these slaughterhouses onto reservations several times, because they would evade state laws. So far, if they have succeeded, the word has not gotten out.

A rancher out this way runs his pigs in his stubble fields in the fall, entirely free range. There are some dubious things about it, since we're in a migratory bird flyway and the birds stop to eat in the stubble as well -- maybe swapping viruses with pigs. I know that when I helped turn bales of hay one day, I soon came down with really awful flu. BUT a pig in a wide field is a whole different creature: alert, fast on its feet, energetic, ears up and out, nose trembling with intake -- QUITE impressive!

Prairie Mary

Posted by: Mary Scriver on May 2, 2006 2:51 PM

Thanks for calling out my post Michael. My father would occasionally do what Mary's rancher does, but you need *very* good fences to keep hogs in, unless you want to run an electric fence around an entire stubble field. Hogs, wily creatures that they are, will ferret out and break through anything that isn't airtight or electrified, and chasing them down the road is quite a workout.

I wonder if there are still communities out there that actually try to attract big meat processing plants, as there were 10-15 years ago. Or have these towns and cities finally wised up? The workforce these plants employ are guaranteed to wind up on the welfare rolls, if not because of low pay then because of disabling injuries. And the illegal status of many, perhaps most, of the workers creates its own problems. It's a tremendous strain, filling the social services gap created by this industry.

It always amazed me, the forbearance that the people in the area where I grew up showed to that meat processing plant. I heard many many first-hand accounts of how horrible the plant and plant owners were, but it never seemed to translate into community activism. I think in part it's the fatalistic middle-American culture/psyche--work hard, don't complain, suffer stoically--that lets these vultures get away with it. Hopefully, that's changing.

Posted by: Steve on May 2, 2006 3:34 PM

You're most welcome. Thank you for the link and the kind words.

Posted by: claire on May 2, 2006 5:16 PM

This thread brings to mind Temple Grandin, an autistic woman who believes her autism gives her insight into animal behavior. She has an interesting website about livestock behavior, the design of slaughterhouses and the humane killing of livestock, and has written a fascinating book about her hypothesis on animal intellects and autism.


Posted by: beloml on May 2, 2006 10:25 PM

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