Self-regulating abattoirs

by Yule Heibel on October 30, 2003

[…wanted to post this last night, but couldn’t get to my blog:]
Dave Pollard has a gut-wrenching post about J.M. Coetzee’s novel, Elizabeth Costello, our seemingly fast-track path to increased cruelty, questions which the internet can’t answer, and related disturbing matters. I commented at length on his blog — probably dragging the topic off-course (sorry Dave!) — and recommend that you go right now to read his post as well as the other comments to it.
But just as I thought I wouldn’t post anything myself, I caught this article in Victoria’s Times-Colonist: Alert raised on slaughterhouses by Chad Skelton. The link will decay in a few weeks, so I’ll quote at length:

More than half the slaughterhouses in Canada have “major” deficiencies that could compromise the safety of their meat products, according to internal inspection reports obtained by CanWest News Service.
“It’s evidence of a huge problem,” said Michael McBane, national co-ordinator for the Canadian Health Coalition, a watchdog group.
“It is evidence of very poor sanitary standards (and it) should worry anybody who is eating meat.”
Among unsanitary conditions identified in the reports were fecal material on a carcass, flies entering a facility through an open door, carcasses stored on a floor, and mould on knife storage containers.
Of those reports [obtained by the Vancouver Sun under the Access to Information Act], 61 (57.5 per cent) list at least one “major deviation” from regulations — everything from the mistreatment of animals to fecal matter on carcasses. Another 39 (36.8 per cent) listed minor deviations. Only six (5.7 per cent) had no deviations at all.

Meanwhile, Robert Charlebois, national manager of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency‘s meat program, insisted that “The public need not be … concerned with these facts. (…) Actions are taken immediately by CFIA staff when we are facing any food safety issues.” Pay close attention to the weaselly passive voice. Pfui.
More from the report, including details of some of the major problems identified:

– “Fecal material on carcass in cooler” at Superior Exports in Ontario;
– “Flies entering” an open door at Britco Pork in Langley;
– “Carcasses stored on the floor” at J&M Meats International in Alberta;
– “Mould present on knife storage containers” at Maple Leaf Poultry in Nova Scotia;
– Inadequate handling of birds in the kill room and unclean cages at Uniturkey in Quebec.

The newspaper reports the slaughterhouses’ reactions, and adds that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency “has been slowly phasing out independent inspections of slaughterhouses and been moving towards a self-regulated industry system.” There’s an editorial in the Vancouver Sun on this, too.
Dave’s post got me commenting about this fantasy space that I suspect we carry inside ourselves, in which we believe that it’s possible to get something for free. With that in mind, one can only choke at the notion of a self-regulated industry system. C’mon, that’s just money for nothin’ and chicks for free. Dream on, or rather: wake up.

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