<$BlogRSDUrl$> The Cyberactivist

Behind the scenes of the fight for the protection of animals and workers and the preservation of the environment - my experiences as a Tyson slaughterhouse hanger/killer turned activist. Exposing the evils of factory farming, by Virgil Butler. If you have arrived here looking for the Tyson stories, view the early archives. Some of them are now featured on the sidebar for easy searching.

Monday, May 17, 2004

USDA Cover-ups and Rampant Corruption 

I think that it is long past time for there to be a complete overhaul of the USDA. They have obviously become so very corrupt and lost all credibility through the recent media attention on the practices that they have been allowing for years that benefit the large corporations they fall down on their knees to help.

I don't know how many of you have been following all of the different issues involving this agency, but there is an extremely disturbing pattern, given that they are the ones responsible for making sure that the food the public eats and that is shipped to other countries to feed to their citizens is safe. They have clearly been failing miserably in this aspect of their job, instead focusing on misleading propaganda to shield the industry from embarrassments and loss of their profits, lying to the public and doing their best to cover-up the kind of embarrassing and hard-to-explain incidents that have been brought to light. I think that it is past time for this agency to be broken up and two separate agencies formed. We need one for the promotion of our products and a separate one for regulating the safety of those products. This has never become more clear than the recent events that are still occurring even as I type this.

For those that haven't kept up completely, I will give you a quick run-down of why I am saying all of this.

First off, if you have read the earlier portions of this blog, especially my personal eyewitness accounts of my days at Tyson in the early archives, then you already are aware of the many violations happening at just one chicken plant and a very small one at that. Those were things that were witnessed by only one person willing to speak up. Who knows how many other similar stories there are that have never seen the light of day?!

Then, of course, we have the famous BSE cow here and the accusations of cover-up and alteration of records in that case, as well as the fact that they are refusing to allow private companies to test all of the cattle they slaughter for BSE.

Now, we have the incident with the cow at Lone Star in Texas that may have had BSE, but of course we will never know for sure because they made sure of that by ordering that it not be tested, and this is not a unique occurrence at all. They have even ordered the folks involved to talk to no one about this. It was quickly sent for rendering without tests and ordered to be fed to pigs on the assumption that pigs cannot get TSEs. Well, that actually may or may not be true. Take a look at this scientific report on this site. So, perhaps there are even mad pigs out there?

They can also feed such material to chickens, and then the litter from the houses, including the spilled and uneaten feed containing that material, can be fed back to cows. And they can still feed the blood of cows to calves, since they don't get any of their mothers' precious milk. That would undermine profits, too. (And in a quick sideline, they have not decided to undermine the entire organic industry by allowing cows given antibiotics to be considered organic. But, that is a whole 'nother story, and one that really makes me mad!)

Even more disturbing are the many other articles that have come out recently that I have been following. Ann Veneman herself admits that there will probably be more cases found, but since the diseased animals sent for rendering are not tested, how will we know? She even says that they aren't going to test for safety reasons, but only to do a little screening for surveillance. Mostly to make people feel better and keep on buying, no doubt. They aren't even training the inspectors properly on what to watch for.

And, perhaps most upsetting for the countries that we export to, some of the USDA vets that sign off on the export certificates have blown the whistle and said that they have been pressured to sign off on things that were false, and have had action taken against them if they refused.

Now this comes as no surprise to me, and it shouldn't to you if you have read my accounts, because the same thing was happening at the Tyson plant that I worked at. I wrote all about that issue here long before these reports were being made public in the media. There has been a long history of this kind of thing for years, and everyone in the industry knows about it, down to the lowly line-worker at the slaughterhouse. And, everyone knows that if you want to keep your job that you better just keep your mouth shut and do what the companies say. That is why there have been a few inspectors come and shake my hand, but wish to remain anonymous in their support for my work. Their hands are tied, and they know that they would face retributions for speaking out and not passing things that should not pass inspection. They feel bad about it, but don't want to lose their jobs.

Well, that simply cannot be allowed anymore. The stakes are just too high. The cat is out of the bag now, and people are starting to find out about the rampant corruption in the very agency that is supposed to protect that most basic commodity needed for our survival - the very food we eat and feed to our kids. It's time to quit allowing the large corporations to run roughshod over government and the public, especially when their practices cause major public safety problems. It's way past time for the public to stand up and demand change.

It really is a life or death situation.

Now that may sound a bit dramatic, but then so is the problem that we are facing. The USDA is filled with industry people that are looking out for the industry alone and not for the public, and certainly not for the countries we sell our products to that actually seem to care a little more about the safety of their citizens and have enacted stronger regulations to ensure that. These are the kind of people that care more about the bottom line than anything else. Profits and production are more important than anything - they rule supreme. They trump public safety, worker safety, animal cruelty, environmental degradation, even exports and credibility, and anything else that might threaten what goes into their deep corporate pockets.

How much longer will the public just sit around and be treated this way? I would really like to know the answer to that question.

I got an email from Dave Louthan again. Seems he wants to make a 100 million person march on Washington to protest and wants to organize it from his website. Great idea Dave. I would be glad to help you do that, but I just don't see it happening. I'm sure that you will get some response, but from what I have seen, most of the public is just so apathetic and cowed down, feeling like they have no power that they just don't do anything. A good many of them actually believe the propaganda that is shoved in their faces. They also don't want to know because they would then have to make changes in their lifestyles that fall outside their comfort zone. They seem to be willing to play the Russian-roulette-style odds and just hope that they are one of the lucky ones.

Yeah well, I'm sure that is the same thing that the people that have already died from food-related illnesses like CJD and food poisoning told themselves, too.

Wake up America! Do you really think it is worth it to take that kind of chance with your life and the lives of your kids? Apparently, blanket testing for BSE will only add about 4 cents to a pound of meat. And most people are in favor of it - they would pay the difference if it was offered in the store as an option. The people are demanding it in enough large numbers, though, and the industry isn't to happy about the idea. So, the only conclusion that can possibly be drawn from all of this is that the USDA -and most important, the industry - doesn't want to find another BSE case. It would hurt their profits too much. And, after all, that is the most important thing, isn't it?

Yeah, tell that to the mother that has to watch her child slowly die in a horribly agonizing way. I wonder what will actually be cheaper in the end - not finding it or having to shell out enormous sums of money for all the lawsuits they are certainly eventually going to face once the larger numbers of people begin dying in such horrible ways. But, then of course, seeing as how it can take decades for that to happen, most of the people currently making these decisions will be nowhere around by that time. They will have made their money and retired, living large and comfortable off their ill-gained profits.

That is, unless they get it themselves. Now wouldn't that be ironic and just?
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