by Gail A. Eisnitz
Prometheus Books, Amherst, 1997
The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry
What started out with a single complaint about a Florida slaughterhouse turned into a tale of intrigue and suspense as investigator Gail A. Eisnitz unearthed more startling information about the meat and poultry Americans consume. This shocking story follows Eisnitz as she becomes submerged in a slaughterhouse subculture, venturing deeper and deeper into the lives of the workers. As the stakes become higher in her David-and-Goliath-type battle, this determined young woman finds herself courageously taking on one of America's most powerful industries. SLAUGHTERHOUSE takes readers on a frightening but true journey from one slaughterhouse to another throughout the country. Along the way we encounter example after example of mistreated animals... intolerable working conditions... lax standards... the slow, painful deaths of children killed as a result of eating contaminated meat... the author's battle with the major television networks... and a dangerously corrupt federal agency that chooses to do nothing rather than risk the wrath of agribusiness... before the whole affair is blown wide open in this powerful exposé.
In the last fifteen years, thousands of America's small to mid-sized slaughterhouses have been displaced by a few large, high-speed operations, each with the capacity to kill more than a million animals a year. With fewer slaughterhouses killing an ever-growing number of animals, slaughter "line-speeds" have accelerated and a production mentality has emerged in which the rapid slaughter line never seems to stop for anything - not for injured workers; not for contaminated meat; and, least of all, not for slow or disabled animals.
While investigating the slaughter industry, Eisnitz gains the trust of dozens of workers across the United States. Without exception, the individuals interviewed admit to deliberately beating, strangling, boiling, or dismembering animals alive in violation of the federal Humane Slaughter Act or failing to report those who did - all in an effort to "keep the production line running." Many also discuss the web of violence in which they have become ensnared and the alcoholism and physical abuse which plague their personal lives.
In an effort to understand how such rampant violations could occur right under the noses of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspectors - the individuals charged with enforcing humane regulations in slaughterhouses - Eisnitz examines the inspectors' track record for enforcing meat and poultry safety regulations, their primary responsibility. Following a long paper trail, she learns that contaminated meat and poultry are pouring out of federally inspected slaughterhouses and, not surprisingly, deaths from foodborne illness have quadrupled in the United States in the last fifteen years.
Determined to tell the whole story, Eisnitz then examines the physical price paid by employees working in one of America's most dangerous industries. In addition to suffering disfiguring injuries and crippling repetitive motion disorders, employees describe tyrannical working conditions in which grievances are met with severe reprisal or dismissals.
Upton Sinclair's novel THE JUNGLE held the nation spellbound nearly a century ago; SLAUGHTERHOUSE is the first book of its kind to explore the impact that unprecedented changes in the meatpacking industry over the last fifteen years - particularly industry consolidation, increased speed lines, and deregulation - have had on workers, animals, and consumers. It is also the first time ever that workers - in this case, individuals who have spent a combined total of more than two million hours on the kill floor - have spoken publicly about what's really taking place behind the closed doors of America's slaughterhouses.
"I have just read Slaughterhouse, at one sitting. It is a stomach-churning, damning indictment of the meat industry. Gail Eisnitz has penetrated the veil that hangs over meat production, and what she has found will shock every reader. Eisnitz is a brilliant investigator, writes superbly, and has the courage and persistence of someone who knows that she is right. No longer can anyone believe that in the United States there is adequate inspection and control of slaughterhouses. As Eisnitz convincingly shows, the meat industry is different to animal suffering, exploitative of its workers, and liable to produce a product that is riddled with dangerous bacteria.
"Whether you eat meat or not – if you care about humans or animals – this book is a must read." – Peter Singer, author of In Defense of Animals and Animal Liberation
Gail A. Eisnitz has been investigating the abuse of animals for many years, and her work has appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines. She is currently chief investigator for the Humane Farming Association.