From disturbing footage from a commercial hatchery to dairy calves being bludgeoned with pick axes, we've seen plenty of examples of unnecessary and inexcusable cruelty practiced by folks working in the meat industry. But what is often forgotten is that animal abuse often goes hand-in-hand with abuse of workers. As with so many abusive situations, it seems logical to conclude that brutalization of working conditions leads to brutal behavior from workers. It's time everyone got treated better. Tom Philpott, now at Mother Jones, has an excellent piece (riffing off of Ted Genoways' article on Spam's Dirty Secret) about how the meat industry turned abuse into a business model:
We get the unionization of the kill floor in the wake of Sinclair's The Jungle, the post-war emergence of meat packing as a proper middle-class job, the fierce anti-union backlash of the '70s, followed by corporatization, scaling up, plunging wages, and then, well, all manner of hell breaking loose, graphically documented by Genoways. All I can add to the story is to emphasize how forces in the broader economy turned the meat industry into one that profits not by putting out an excellent product, but rather by relentlessly slashing costs.