Month: September 2006

Against Butchery

When I moved to Ukiah in twelve years ago, I was impressed by the serenity, peace and tranquility of the valley. The air was clean, and the water pure – the Yokayo Valley was indeed much different from the pollution, filth, and crowds of urban and metropolitan areas.

Recently, plans for construction of a slaughterhouse in Ukiah have begun to materialize – up to 50,000 animals per year. I am appalled at the amount of support the project has received. As progressive citizens, we should not permit such a facility of cruelty and ruthlessness to even exist anywhere in Mendocino County.

Proponents of the slaughterhouse state that the many dangers and problems of slaughterhouses and butcher shops (as so famously described by Upton Sinclair one hundred years ago) have been resolved, and that the facility would bring many much-needed jobs to Ukiahans. But as numerous reports, articles, exposés, and papers have described over the past few years, none of these benefits are true.

Today, slaughterhouses cause endless problems for the communities in which they are located. During the last five years, there has been extensive deregulation of the meat industry. For decades, the industry has fought and attempted to block government-mandated testing of meat for lethal microbes, like E. Coli and salmonella, but due to the government’s lax oversight, it is now perfectly legal and lawful to sell beef tainted with salmonella – resulting in 1.4 million Americans being sickened by the pathogen every year.

But how does salmonella get on the meat? It happens when manure or intestinal contents are splattered on the corpses.

Slaughterhouses also create huge amounts of pollution – a single steer can produce up to fifty pounds of urine and feces every day. Air pollution is also generated in large quantities, with the odor of the animals and their corpses, waste, and offal matter pervading throughout our city. The butcher shop will also further cripple our city’s water supply, stretching it thin. And ultimately, how will this affect tourism to the Valley? Families and citizens come to Ukiah to see the grape vineyards, the pear orchards, the majestic redwoods, and the grand mountains – not to see a slaughterhouse churning out two hundred dead corpses every day.

I haven’t even begun to take into account the cruelty and heartless treatment of animals in slaughterhouses. Are we to let innocent animals be tortured, electrocuted, suffocated, gassed, and poisoned – all in our own backyard? Are we to let fellow citizens of our planet Earth be crammed into filthy, foul, and cramped pens?

As for “good jobs” that the slaughterhouse will provide, keep in note that the meatpacking industry had the highest rate of serious injury in the entire country – three times higher than that for factories, and despite the fact that most slaughterhouse injuries are not reported at all. Meat companies have had a long record of violating labor laws and intimidating workers to keep workers from organizing unions. Are the Ukiahans who would work at the slaughterhouse really getting “good jobs”?

We can do better, Ukiah. As common sense has dictated for years: Read the fine print before committing to anything. Before rushing enthusiastically to support the slaughterhouse, let’s pause for a moment to recheck the details. Just what are we getting ourselves into?