M A R C H 2 0 0 9
an Editorial in the New York Times NEWS
the meat they eat is produced, if only so they can continue to eat it. Nearly every aspect of meat production in America is disturbing, from the way animals are raised, to inade-quate inspection of the final product. When it comes to what happens in the slaughter-house, most of us mentally avert our eyes. Yet in the past decade, the handling of livestock on their way to the killing floor has actually been one of the parts of the business that has improved most significantly. What is most alarming at the slaughter- Musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) is a term house is not what happens to the animals - used to describe a wide range of conditions meat processing. This reported increase they have already met their fate. It is what happens to the humans who work there. A that affect muscles, tendons, nerves, bones large slaughterhouse is the truly industrial and joints. MSD can also be called Carpal end of industrial farming. It is a factory for Tunnel Syndrome, Occupational Overuse essing) and 2007 (38.1 tonnes), a 66% enormous pressure on the workers hired to Injuries (OOI), Cumulative trauma disor- take apart the carcasses coming down the ders and repetitive strain injuries (RSI). line. And because the basic job of the line is cutting flesh - hard, manual labor - the Many meat workers complain to their fore- whose flesh is every bit as vulnerable as man/Doctor “when I get home, I can barely Task complexity has also increased that of the pork beef or chicken passing by. move my hands or arms after working all day on the chain. I can’t hardly sleep compounded by the fact that meatpackers, because of the pain….” then the company industry, always try to hire the cheapest home, or it is “old age”, or I have arthritis, difficulties compound the risks of the job. or I am told to “harden up” and get back on The result, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch, is "extraordinarily the job, or its my fault that I ended up with to work to early following MSD injury high rates of injury" in conditions that MSD, or take some more anti-inflammatory face an increased risk of injury where “Voltaren” pills to ease the pain not know- fact, the report finds, some major players in the American meat industry prey upon a ing I could end up with a stomach ulcer. are increased, through reducing staffing DON”T BE INTIMIDATED, KNOW YOUR RIGHTS levels, recovery time and training time, Increases in productivity and production along with increasing work pace & proc- aliens who are afraid of calling attention have had a significant impact on the pace of As a result, those workers often receive little or no compensation for injuries, and any attempt to organize is met with hostility. Overseas markets hold up!
The industry has little incentive to improve conditions on its own, except a decent uncertain times, given the global financial regard for human rights. The only reason- Commodity crises, we remain cautiously positive going Price Index forward” says Bill Falconer MIA Chairman also the enforcement of federal and state law. Unfortunately, those laws at present are too adding that beef into North America tells a another fall similar story. Current beef returns are 25- provide the regulations needed to increase worker safety and improve workers' rights. Drought and dairy expansion have reduced A systematic regulatory look at the meat consecutive this year’s lamb numbers to 27.3 million - a industry, with an eye to toughening stan- monthly de- drop of 4.7 million. Export lamb numbers are dards, is desperately needed. In recent years, Americans have had the habit of think- cline – with a drop of 4.3% in January. estimated to fall 6.15 million to 20.36 million ing of wide-scale workplace abuses as for- eign affairs - the kind of thing that turns up in ledger there were improving beef and Heavier carcase weights offset lower export Southeast Asia, for instance. And, in a sense, lamb prices, both of which grew 3.5% in lamb numbers. Lamb carcase weights are houses are international matters, because so member companies report current sales 17.7kg. many of the workers are actually citizens of As at Week 23 of the season Saturday 7th other countries. But in this case, the abuses are taking place right at home, and as part of 12 months ago. “This is illustrated by March ‘09 the NZ lamb kill is down 11.6% NZX Agrifax data which shows earnings (NI down 9.8% - SI down 13%) and the In a carb-conscious era, the meat processing for lamb cuts to the EU are up 30% on cattle kill is up 4.8% (NI up 3.3% - SI up industry should be a place of opportunity for the same time last year and racks and 9.9%) Cow kill up 31.4% NI (07/08 147,094 workers who put all that protein on your forequarters into Asia and the US are up to 08/09 193,214) Cow kill up 92.7% SI plate. Right now, that is hardly the case. 28%. This is significant and even with



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