Quotes from Slaughterhouse, by Gail Eisnitz

- ‘The Jungle revealed slaughterhouse conditions so shocking and meat so filthy that meat sales plummeted more than fifty percent and President Theodore Roosevelt personally crusaded for enactment of the Federal Meat Inspection Act of 1906.’ (21)
- ‘Today, USDA employees inspect meat in much the same way as they did back in 1906. According to federal law, all animals in slaughterhouses must be examined before and after they are killed. These inspections are conducted by government veterinarians or trained inspectors. Veterinarians, knowledgeable in animal physiology and health, have general oversight in slaughterhouses. Inspectors, who receive classroom and on-the-job training, learn how to detect lesions, signs of illness, and contamination in animals.’ (21)
- ‘Congress passed the Humane Slaughter Act (HAS) in 1958 and broadened it in 1978. Among the HAS’s most important provisions is the requirement that all animals be rendered unconscious with just one application of an effective stunning device by a trained person before being shackled and hoisted up on the line. The USDA, closely allied to the meat industry and opposed to the Humane Slaughter Act, was nevertheless made responsible for its enforcement. And while the intentional violation of the Federal Meat Inspection Act carries stiff fines and imprisonment, violations of the Humane Slaughter Act carry no penalties at all.’ (24)
- ‘Are you brave enough to admit that the one natural reservoir of E. coli 0157:H7 has been proven to be the intestinal tract of cattle? That the avenue of infection is feces splattered on our meat? That the disease which was extremely rare only a decade ago has now become the leading cause of kidney failure in U.S. children? That all this suffering is in direct correlation to the deregulatory programs of the last two administrations?’ Mary Heersink, founder, Safe Tables Our Priority, to USDA officials at a hearing on meat inspection, June 1993 (49)
- ‘I obtained statistics from various government sources. The slaughter figures were staggering. One hundred and one million pigs are slaughtered each year in the United States. Thirty-seven million cattle and calves. More than four million horses, goats, and sheep. And over eight billion chickens and turkeys.’ (61)
- ‘ ‘So I go to their supervisor, a USDA veterinarian, and tell him workers are being hurt by live hogs. I try to make him see how much cruelty to the animals was going on. He’d be like, ‘Hey, I’m coming down.’ And he’d tell everyone in advance. The main foreman would tell me the vet was coming down, then he’d crank up the stunners, walk around picking up pipes and warning everybody, ‘Whatever you do, don’t use no pipes, the government man is coming down.’ The vet would look around and say, ‘I don’t see no live hogs.’ After that, he’d tell anyone who complained, ‘Hey, I’ve been down there, I’ve seen it. There’s nothing wrong with them hogs.’ ’ (86)
- ‘Pigs down on the kill floor have come up and nuzzled me like a puppy. Two minutes later I had to kill them – beat them to death with a pipe. I can’t care.’ (87)
- ‘When hogs arrive frozen at slaughterhouses – which is a common occurrence – their protections under the Humane Slaughter Act are mysteriously waived. Since they are of no value for human consumption, antemortem inspectors neither examine them nor make a decision as to their disposition. Nor are they provided shelter or promptly stunned. Instead they are left to fend for themselves until they die.’ (101-102)
- ‘ ‘You’re going to lose hogs in a semi no matter what, from getting suffocated or from being too hot or too cold,’ he said. ‘During this time I worked in rendering, there was large piles of dead hogs every day. They must’ve been losing fifteen to twenty out of each truckload.’ ’ (102)
- ‘There are a lot of unwanted horses in this country. In fact, according to the USDA, each year in the United States between one and three hundred thousand pleasure and race horses find themselves at the business end of the captive bolt gun. While a small percentage of horsemeat may end up in pet food, today most is shipped to Europe where it is sold in meat cases for about $6.00 a pound.’ (109)
- ‘The $1,500 maximum fine for animal abuse in Iowa wouldn’t even make a dent in the company’s petty cash.’ (112)
- ‘It’s an industry myth that an animal’s heart has to keep beating in order to pump all the blood from its muscles. When blood is retained in the meat, it provides a good medium for bacteria to grow, and that reduces the meat’s shelf life. I’d looked up several studies in the National Agricultural Library and found that in the early eighties, researchers had proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that killing an animal by stopping the heart instead of just stunning it has no effect on the amount of blood retained in the meat.’ (122-123)
- ‘Inspectors are much farther down the line inspecting heads at one station, organs at another, and carcasses at a third.’ (127)
- ‘ ‘All animals fear when they’re going to die,’ he said. ‘If he don’t want to go, if he falls down, they beat him with pipes, kick them, hit them with pieces of wood, stick them with knives, if he still won’t move, you wrap the cable around his neck and drag them in with the hoist. You drag them while they’re still alive. Choke them to death.’ ’ (138)
- ‘ ‘You’re saying your boss had access to the USDA stamper?’ ‘Course he’s got access,’ he replied. ‘He’s got access to anything in that plant. It’s like this: if you a good worker, you do favors for the boss, he does favors for you. You take a condemned horse, skin him, cut him up, sell the meat in the street. We have sold horsemeat, unstamped, to people in restaurants, in their homes. We’ve sold it as beef.’  ’ (140-141)
- ‘ ‘People took the bowel system,’ he continued, ‘parts that aren’t supposed to be sold, and sell them to Chinese restaurants. Tripe and runners and creepers [small and large intestines] and nuts. The feet. They sell buckets of blood out the back door. Hog blood, cow blood. They give you a couple of dollars and tell you to fill a bucket with blood for them.’ ’ (144)
- ‘We used to trim the shit off the meat. Then we washed the shit off the meat. Now the consumer eats the shit off the meat.’ David Carney, USDA Meat Inspector (155)
- ‘Deaths from food poisoning more than quadrupled during the decade of deregulation from an estimated two thousand in 1984 to roughly nine thousand in 1994.’ (158)
- ‘I learned that about six thousand federal meat inspectors examined the insides and outsides of more than eight billion animals each year. Meat inspectors had been using the same methods for nearly ninety years – cutting into, manually examining, and visually observing carcasses and organs – relying solely on their senses of sight, smell, and tough to examine the animals for signs of disease and contamination. As early as 1985, the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) had warned the USDA to take immediate action to stem the tide of contamination that was sure to hit. That year, the NAS issued the first of three separate reports analyzing the nation’s meat and poultry inspection systems, calling them antiquated in their ability to protect the public, and urging the USDA to being designing a science-based inspection system to detect lethal pathogens – disease-causing organisms – invisible to the naked eye. According to the NAS, contaminants like E. coli and salmonella exposed consumers to a whole new world of food hazards, and posed a significantly greater threat than did diseases that could be seen, smelled, or felt. ‘It is virtually impossible to detect these organisms with current inspection methods,’ the NAS warned. Furthermore, the NAS stated that it could find ‘no clear evidence that the [USDA’s] inspection program [was even] based on objectives and criteria that relate to public health.’ ’ (161-162)
- ‘At the time of my visit to these operations, the poultry industry was slaughtering more birds in one day than it had in the entire year of 1930.’ (165)
- ‘ ‘At my last plant,’ he said, ‘birds were going by me at a rate of ninety-one per minute, with three inspectors on the line. There’s no way in the world you can look at thirty or thirty-five birds in one minute. About all you can do with birds going past that fast is to pat each one on the behind as it whizzes by.’ ’ (171)
- ‘The floors are covered with grease, fat, sand, and roaches. Bugs are up and down the sides of the walls. Some of the flying roaches were huge, up to four and five inches long. We’d joke that you could put a collar on them and walk them…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 fecal contamination on the floor from chickens that it kept getting into one worker’s boots and burned his feet so badly his toenails had to be amputated. The waste is not always from the chickens. The company won’t allow workers to leave the line when they have to go to the bathroom….Usually they just suffer and put a strain on their bodies, but sometimes they have to relieve themselves on the floor. The problems are just as bad in the slaughter process [as they are in the plants generally]. After they are hung, sometimes the chickens fall off into the drain that runs down the middle of the line. This is where roaches, intestines, diseased parts, fecal contamination, and blood are washed down. Workers get sick to their stomachs into the drain. The drain is a lot less sanitary than anybody’s toilet. That doesn’t seem to matter, though. The Perdue supervisors told us to take the fallen chickens out of the drain and send them back down the line.’ Donna Bazemore, former Perdue employee, Congressional testimony (171)
- ‘To combat the excessive contamination caused by increased line speeds and new technologies, elevated levels of chlorine are added to chill water, a controversial solution because it causes the formation of toxic by-products associated with increased cancer risk in humans. ‘The ‘decontamination’ of poultry is not allowed in the European Union (EU),’ states a 1997 EU press release in regard to the United States’ use of chlorine. ‘If contamination occurs, EU legislation requires that the part must be removed by the meat inspector.’ ’ (176)
- ‘I knew that Humane Slaughter Act regulations gave inspectors the authority to stop the line when they saw violations. But I also knew that they did not authorize inspectors to visit the plant’s slaughter area hourly, daily, weekly, or ever, for that matter. ‘So how often does someone go down to the slaughter area and look?’ I asked. ‘And leave the station?’ Carney replied. ‘If an inspector did that he’d be subject to disciplinary action for abandoning his inspection duties. Unless he stopped the line first, which would get him into even more trouble. Inspectors are tied to the line.’ ‘So what’s the procedure for checking humane slaughter?’ I asked. ‘There isn’t one,’ he answered.’ (189)
- ‘This comes up all the time on my union job. If you stop a mass-production line, where you have sixty, seventy, a hundred plant employees standing around, your boss, the USDA veterinarian in the plant, is going to make your life hell. He feels he’s got to answer to the company for lost production. He’ll ridicule you, chew you out. Inspectors are often disciplined for sticking to regulations and stopping production for a contamination problem – meat safety – which has a much higher priority than animal suffering.’ (190)
- ‘ ‘The inspectors I talk to are from all over the country,’ he replied. ‘It’s an everyday occurrence clear across the United States. It occurs in swine. It occurs in beef. It occurs in calves. Sheep. All species,’ he explained. ‘The Humane Slaughter Act is a regulation on paper only,’ he reiterated. ‘It is not being enforced.’ ’ (191)
- ‘ ‘Most veterinarians are like the viscosity of oil,’ Macias said. ‘They flow along the path of least resistance. Let’s say you’re the vet. If there’s an inspector who’s outspoken about these things, you’re going to have to confront plant management on a daily basis. You have to decide: Do I side with the inspector, who really doesn’t pose any challenge to my authority, or with plant management, who can do me harm because they can do and talk to my circuit supervisor or district manager. If I’m seen as an oddity in the arena of performance, my rating and my chance for promotion go down, and my chances of getting on the shit list go up. You tell me, which way do you go?’ ’ (192)
- ‘You talk to any inspector who’s been around any length of time. Vets and supervisors do the minimal amount of work required of them, mostly making everything look good on paper. As for making sure plants are in compliance with regs, they’re very lax. Most of them get into government work because they’re too lazy to have their own practices. They’d have to work, they might have to go out to the barn in the middle of the night and pull [deliver] a calf. Here they can work a seven to three-thirty job, sit in their office, read the newspaper and do crossword puzzles.’ (201)
- ‘ ‘Plants clean up when they know the USDA is coming down,’ Friedlander continued. ‘It’s a guessing game because a lot of plants work with hand-held radios. So when they see someone going down to a certain section, all they do is get on the radio and say, ‘Hey Joe, the veterinarian’s coming your way because I see him walking through the coolers.’ ’ (208)
- ‘It’s not just the fault of the USDA veterinarians in the plants. We don’t get the support of our supervisors in the circuits, districts, and in Washington. We get our orders from the circuit supervisor. They don’t want to get involved, get their careers all screwed up, so they leave you there to hang. They say, ‘Well, if you can’t handle this and you’ve got so many complaints about the plant, then I suggest you go take another job. Or, if you want me to, I’ll find somebody to replace you.’ ’ (209)
- ‘Some of the vets want to cover themselves or go easy on the plants because they know that after they leave the USDA they can get a high-paying job as an industry consultant. Our supervisors, too. They’re supposed to be the people who regulate the industry, and every time we pass a decision up to them from the field, they shoot it back down at us, telling us to work it out. They’re just trying to cover themselves for the future so when they retire they can get a job as a consultant.’ (209-210)
- ‘ ‘It takes a few minutes for a stuck cow to bleed out,’ I said. ‘That’s what I mean, how long do they have?’ ‘That’s what I mean – nothing. From the sticker to the legger is maybe ten seconds. They’re breathing real hard over there, mooing, they’re falling off the rail because they’re alive.’ ’ (216)
- ‘I’d made arrangements to interview some former and current hog factory workers. The first one told me that employees had to wear respirators just to do their jobs or they would gag or vomit from the dust and fumes.’ (218)
- ‘The very same untrained workers, not veterinarians, administer drugs to sick animals, often by injection. According to one workers who administers medication, what drugs and dosages they use are a matter of ‘trial and error.’ ’ (219)
- ‘Since uniform size is so important to packers, piglets that don’t grow quite fast enough – the ‘runts’ – are quickly weeded out. Picked up by their hind legs, thousands are swung and then bashed headfirst onto the concrete floor. This standard practice used by mega-farm workers is called ‘thumping.’ ’ (220)
- ‘ ‘Fat-reduced beef isn’t meat,’ he explained. ‘It’s a fatty tissue, the solid part of fat. It’s a gray, ugly mass. It makes you sick to look at it. They form it into patties, color it, freeze it – if you leave it out too long it will start to smell – and then they tell you to cook it.’ ‘It’s connective tissue that contains high levels of proteins that your body cannot use,’ said Dr. Jack Leighty, a former USDA veterinarian…the protein in fat-reduced beef is useless. It’s like adding water or sand to the meat product.’ ’ (242)
- ‘Don Tyson, meanwhile, has been a loyal Clinton backer for years, flying him around Arkansas on Tyson aircraft and picking up the tab for many meals.’ WSJ (246)
- ‘I phoned the Bureau of Labor Statistics and they faxed me some information. I learned that, with nearly thirty-six injuries or illnesses for every one hundred workers, meat packing is the most dangerous industry in the United States. In fact a worker’s chances of suffering an injury or an illness in a meat plant are six times greater than if that same person worked in a coal mine.’ (271-272)
- ‘Over the course of my investigation I’d heard about workers being crushed by cattle; burned by chemicals; stabbed; breaking bones; and suffering miscarriages and fainting from the heat, fast pace, and fumes. But, according to Public Health Service data, the hidden dangers in meat and poultry packing lay not in accidents, but rather in repetitive motion disorders…As line speeds have as much as tripled in the last fifteen years, cumulative trauma disorders have increased nearly 1,000 percent.’ (273)
- ‘ ‘The treatment that we receive is very bad,’ said a Mexican man. ‘If we talk for a moment while working, one supervisor told us that he would cut off our tongues. Even to go to the bathroom becomes a problem for us. I am a diabetic, and I need to use the bathroom frequently. I suffer very much because sometimes I need to use the bathroom and I am not allowed to do so. The past month, two workers made a mess in their pants because they were not allowed to use the bathroom even on an emergency basis. We have been told that if we use the bathroom outside of the break time, that the plant doors are open and we can leave because other workers can be hired in our place right away. Sometimes it’s worse than being a slave. Due to oppressive conditions like these, turnover rates in many plants soar.’ (275)
- ‘The United States is one of the few industrialized countries that neither requires nor practices humane poultry slaughter.’ (281)
- ‘In July 1996, President Clinton announced yet another new USDA meat inspection program, touting it as a breakthrough in food safety. The new initiative, called Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points, requires companies to identify the major points of potential contamination in the production process in an effort to prevent contamination, and also calls for a token amount of microbial testing. On the surface, the introduction of microbial testing is a great advance, something consumer advocates have been pushing for years. In practice, following the tradition of Streamlined Inspection and other earlier USDA initiatives, the new regulations are a Trojan horse for deregulation. To start, while microbial testing will be conducted, it will not pinpoint specific contaminated carcasses for trimming or condemning, but instead will sample a small fraction of meat and poultry to ensure that levels of contaminants are within average bounds.’ (284-285)
- ‘I asked food inspectors’ union chairman Dave Carney about President Clinton’s proposed $43 million interagency food-safety initiative, announced in early 1997. I already knew that the bulk of the money was earmarked not for USDA inspection, but to teach people how to cook their meat. This, despite the fact that meat scientists and microbiologists now concur that the infections dose of E. coli 0157:H7 is so low – and cross-contamination is so unavoidable – that cooking cannot possibly solve the problem: an infected piece of meat will dangerously contaminate your hands and kitchen surfaces before you could ever put it in the frying pan. ‘Basically, they’re saying that the whole problem lies with the consumer?’ I asked Carney. ‘It’s up to him to cook the germs off his food?’ ‘You got it,’ replied Carney. ‘It’s literally come to the point that yeah, shit, pus, scabs, feathers, pieces of inedible internal organs, it doesn’t matter. As long as you cook it well enough, it’s fine.’ ’ (289-290)
- ‘For several years, I had been trying to convince a Washington Post investigative reporter to write a feature on slaughterhouse cruelty, and this was the case that sparked his interest. We provided that reporter with evidence from IBP, along with numerous documents and witnesses from other slaughterhouses across the United States. The Washington Post, one of the most influential newspapers in the world, published a remarkable story, running three photos from IBP hidden-camera footage on the front page of the newspaper, exposing industry-wide atrocities. The title of the article, quoting one of the slaughterhouse workers, was ‘They Die Piece by Piece.’ Washington Post editors had been nervous about running the story but were astonished by the public’s response. Thousands of readers wrote to the Post to express outrage, horror, and most of all, gratitude that the Post had run the story. The feature ended up being one of the highest readership response pieces in the history of the Washington Post.’ (298-299)
- ‘By 2005, Congress had provided the USDA with more than $11 million to enforce the Humane Slaughter Act. The money, according to assurances from the secretary of agriculture to Senator Byrd, was to be used to hire no fewer than fifty new inspectors for the sole purpose of enforcing the Humane Slaughter Act. To date, the USDA’s promises have proved empty. Apparently not a penny of that money has been used to hire even one in-plant inspector to enforce the Humane Slaughter Act.’ (302)
- ‘To date, there remains no continuous on-site oversight of humane handling and slaughter activities at the nation’s nine hundred federally inspected slaughterhouses.’ (303)
- ‘Since writing Slaughterhouse, the filth and contamination that has flourished under HAACP has resulted in ongoing outbreaks of food-borne illness and subsequent meat and poultry recalls larger than had ever been encountered in history. We’ve seen recalls of twenty-five million pounds ground beef, twenty-seven million pounds of turkey and chicken, and a staggering thirty-five million pounds of hot dogs from plants that had long histories of USDA violations.’ (303-304)
- ‘With an increasing level of public awareness, agribusiness has sought out locations where it can sidestep state environmental laws and community opposition. Agribusiness is attracted to Native American land for these reasons.’ (305)
- ‘Sick and injured pigs were routinely dragged into narrow alleyways between pens where they were provided no food or water and were left to die slowly of disease, starvation, and dehydration. ‘How long will these sick and injured pigs lie there without food and water?’ we asked. ‘A week. Depends on how long it takes them to die. Two weeks,’ said a worker. Those pigs that were ‘euthanized’ were frequently beaten to death with hammers and gate rods. ‘I’ve seen people just take a straight hammer and start wailing on them. I’ve seen pigs with their whole head crushed in get thrown into the dead box and three days later they will still be breathing,’ said one worker. ‘Or you stand on their neck. The way to do it now, we take the water hose and stick in down their throat and blow them up, and their butt-holes pop out. We just drown them to death.’ Thousands of piglets whose legs because trapped between floor slats were simply abandoned to die of starvation or dehydration. Weanling piglets that got too close to heat lamps were left to burn to death. ‘We call them ‘baby back ribs’ and ‘crispy critters.’ ’ the workers told us.’ (306-307)
- ‘So when network television executives claim that people don’t want to know about these issues, that viewers will quickly change the channel, we can now say, ‘Give the public the credit it is due!’ Americans do care deeply about these issues, and if you give them an opportunity to care, they will show you.’ (312) 


  1. I am speechless! .... people who work in those places must be psychopaths - they have to be. It is a place where they can get their kicks from torturing animals and not have anyone complain, but have them join in. No one who is sane, no one who has a heart and a soul could do any of those things. Thank God I am a vegan. I just wish people did actually care, care enough to put up their hands and say "no more" and put a stop to all this ...... it breaks my heart to read such things. I hate being a human being. We are the cruellest species in the world, and sadly I belong to this species.

  2. me too Diane; despite being vegan for yonks this book scared me to death when I read it some 25 yrs ago.

  3. me too Diane; despite being vegan for yonks this book scared me to death when I read it some 25 yrs ago.