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Slaughter expert calls Agriprocessors ‘sloppy’
One of the nation’s leading authorities on humane livestock slaughtering told Iowa Independent in a phone interview today that the problems at Agriprocessors, a kosher meatpacking plant in Postville, could be summed up in one word: “Sloppy.”
“In my experience there are three different categories of slaughter houses — kosher or otherwise,” Dr. Temple Grandin said. “About 20 percent of slaughter houses do things right nearly all the time. There is a large percentage that do things right most of the time. There’s also about 20 percent that tend to do things wrong, but will clean up their act when they are being audited.
“Within that bottom 20 percent, however, there is a very bottom 10 percent that has the most blatant problems and violations. That’s where Agriprocessors is — in that bottom 10 percent.”
Grandin, a professor of animal science at Colorado State University, has designed one-third of all livestock facilities in the U.S. with the goal of decreasing the fear and pain animals experience during the slaughter process. In North America, almost half of all cattle are handled in a center track restrainer system that she designed for meat plants.
Grandin, through a recommendation by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, has toured the Agriprocessors facilities in both Postville and Gordon, NE. Following her tour in 2006, she gave the Postville facility her blessing, something that Agriprocessors management publicized with great earnest.
“The things that were exposed in this latest PETA video — these secondary cuts like potting a plant in the cow’s throat — that wasn’t happening when I toured the plant,” Grandin said. “I didn’t see that in the video from the tour the Rabbis took of the Postville plant earlier this summer.”
It was those differences in how management acted when they knew they were being watched and when they thought no one was looking, that led her to speak out once again against the plant and its management.
“For those who have been around agriculture, you can walk onto a farm and know if its being run well,” she explained. “You can easily see which farmers are paying attention to detail and which ones don’t seem to care. It’s that inattention to detail — that sloppy management — that has caused so many problems at Agriprocessors.”
Ritual cuts, even those performed in the rotating pens used solely in the U.S. by Agriprocessors, are not, according to Grandin, the problem.
“I have no problem with ritual slaughter when it is done correctly,” she said. “There are slaughter houses that do things right, that pay attention to the details. While the rotating pens used by Agriprocessors would not be my first choice, even those, when used correctly and maintained correctly, can meet the requirements in relation to prodding limits and vocalization.”
One of the things she’s seen in other slaughter houses that she believes should be a practice instituted at Agriprocessors, is a scoring system for the shochtim (specially trained Jewish men who perform the ritual cut).
“Management should be able to observe the cuts and note or score the shochtim’s performance,” she said. “That way you can see who has developed the best skill, who has the highest attention to detail and so forth. I’ve been in plants where, if a certain person was not scoring well, that person was told that he would be inspecting lungs or doing some other duty related to the religious tradition. That person would simply no longer be allowed to make the cut.”
That lack of leadership within Agriprocessors, and management’s continued inability or refusal to make changes that would not only benefit ritual slaughter, but the whole of plant operations, is what has led Grandin to say that all Agriprocessors facilities be equipped with cameras.
“The cameras should be installed and should be monitored by a third party, independent auditing company,” she said. “We have management at Agriprocessors that has been repeat offenders and have given us proof that they will only behave when they know they are being watched. The auditing company has be an independent third party and the results of the audits have to be posted for the public.”