<$BlogRSDUrl$> 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.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Another USDA Whistle-blower on BSE 

Yeah, I know it has been too long since I last posted. Besides being busy with so many projects, I also have been having major computer problems and was offline for over two whole weeks while my computer was in the shop. It's still not feeling up to par everyday, but we are keeping it going. Anyway, you can imagine all the stuff that built up over a two-week period that had to be dealt with once I finally got back online. Anyway, enough excuses, on to today's post:

Here is a brief excerpt from an article I received in the Agribusiness Examiner newsletter (they got it from Public Citizen, btw, but didn't provide a link, though I have the whole article if anyone wants it. It's also posted here.):

On December 8, 2004, NJC chair Charles Painter sent a letter, on behalf of the NJC (the government meat inspectors' union), to the USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), outlining concerns about the removal of "specified risk materials" (SRMs) from cattle and FSIS inspectors' ability to enforce the export requirements for products destined for Mexico. SRMS are the nervous system tissues believed to be most likely to carry the infectious prions that cause mad cow disease.

Among his concerns:

1) Plant employees are not correctly identifying and marking animals over 30 months old, which means plant employees and government personnel further down the line are unaware that numerous parts should be removed as SRMs and these high-risk materials are entering the food supply, and

2) [Production line] inspectors are not authorized by the USDA to take actions when they see plant employees sending products that do not meet export requirements past the point on the line where they can be identified and removed.

Rather than addressing the issues raised, the USDA reacted to the letter by directing extraordinary resources to targeting the NCJ chairman and other regional union presidents:

* On December 23, FSIS compliance officer appeared unannounced at the home of Painter, while he was on annual leave, to question him about the allegations in the letter.

* On December 28, Painter received a notice from FSIS that he was under formal investigation.* On January 6, Painter was ordered to Washington, D.C., to be questioned for three hours by FSIS.

* On January 7, seven regional council presidents for the NJC also were ordered to appear in Washington, D.C., on January 11 for an interview.

"Mr. Painter offered this information to the USDA because he was concerned that the agency's inadequate policy could put consumers in danger," said Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen's food program. "The USDA should have been grateful, but it chose to attack the whistleblower instead of attacking the problem.

Sound familiar? The same thing they did with Lester Friedlander. And the same thing that was done to me by Tyson when I came forward. The industry and the USDA don't like their bottom line to be affected by anyone worrying about whether or not their food is safe, any more than they want anyone worrying about animal cruelty, or unsafe working conditions for the workers. They don't want anyone thinking about those things at all. They want you to just keep right on buying those products and letting them worry about it (or not, as the facts show the case is).

I would like to point soething else out about this case that I believe worthy of notice:

In his letter, Painter did not identify specific plants where reports had come from, because he did not know. In fact, he chose not to learn the identity of the plants so that he would not be forced to disclose this information, which could allow the agency to take retaliatory action against the inspectors assigned to these plants.

Sounds to me like he is truly doing this because he is quite worried and not to get anyone into trouble. Pretty much how Lester Friedlander started out when he started talking. No decent person wants to have the burden of knowing that people suffered and died and they could have prevented it by simply speaking up. I know I don't. Would you?

To give you an idea of the amount of support Painter has, here are the groups involved that signed onto a letter to Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns at the USDA:

The American Corn Growers Association, Cancer Prevention Coalition, Center for Food Safety,Community Nutrition Institute, Consumer Federation of America,Consumer Policy Institute/Consumers Union, Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease Foundation, Inc., Family Farm Defenders, Government Accountability Project, Global Resource Action Center for the Environment, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, Iowa Farmers Union, Lane County Food Coalition, Organic Consumers Association, Public Citizen, Safe Tables Our Priority, The Humane Society of the United States and the Weston A. Price Foundation.

To read the groups' letter, please go to
To read Charles Painter's letter, please go to

I am keeping this particular post brief, as I have quite a bit going on now. I am scheduled to be on Animal Voices radio Tuesday, the 15th at 11:15-12:00 EST. This is the same show I linked before that carries Lester Friedlander's interview, among others. As these arrangements have recently been made, but not confirmed since I accepted the invitation, they could change. If I hear back from them with anything definite, I will let you know.

Meanwhile I am still working to keep my groups up-to-date with the latest info on factory farming issues, working on my book, and getting ready for my talk at AR2005 (more on that later). I have also been getting a bit of work lately, and Laura and I are not in as dire straights as before, though we can still use your help as the number of obligations we have continue to increase. I can tell you this much, though. From now on, any donations sent to us will not be used for personal reasons anymore, but every penny will go to further our work. Our project now is to get enough funding together (around $1000) to make the trip to L.A. in July for me to speak at AR2005. As I said, I will write that whole issue up soon, as I will my take on the Human Rights Watch report on maltreatment and unsafe working conditions slaughterhouse workers face that came out recently. Again, if you want to stay current, your best bet is to join one or both of my AAFF groups, as I have had less and less time to keep this blog current.

Have a good day, everyone. Done your good deed yet today? If not, why not? Go ahead.

And smile. :) Peace.
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