212. Don't Eat the Meat

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The Meatland Packing Company is a cattle slaughterhouse in southern California. Because of rumors that workers were mistreating animals, a member of the Humane Society managed to visit the slaughterhouse one day. With his video camera, he secretly filmed a worker prodding a lame cow with an electric shock stick, a worker pushing a sick cow with the metal bars of a forklift, and a worker shooting water from a hose into the nostrils of a sick cow. He filmed a forklift operator lifting and transporting dead cows onto the "kill floor." The video made national TV news. The workers told federal investigators that they were only following orders.

The US Department of Agriculture requires humane treatment of sick and lame cows. It allows the slaughter of healthy cows only. Meatland Packing Company is a major beef supplier to US school systems and fast food outlets. USDA demanded a recall of all Meatland beef -- 43 million pounds, the largest amount of beef ever recalled in the US. "Unfortunately," said a health official, "the USDA became aware of the problem too late." Almost all of the beef had been consumed before the recall was announced.

"Consumers got lucky this time," the official said. "We haven't had one report of illness. Next time consumers won't be so lucky. And there will be a next time, because USDA inspects only five percent of the nation's meat supply." A federal prosecutor has charged two Meatland supervisors with felony animal cruelty. Both men could spend six years in prison if convicted. The Humane Society asked the public to donate more money to help it prevent more cruelty to animals.

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