Meat industry must beware

By Dan Paden

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

Most of us — even those of us who eat meat — know that life on a factory farm is no picnic for animals. Chickens are crammed together with thousands of others inside dark sheds that reek of ammonia. Piglets are castrated without being given any painkillers. Terrified calves are torn away from their mothers within hours of birth.

Here’s what you may not know: While for most animals this life of misery will end with a terrifying death in a slaughterhouse, many will be injured or killed in a traffic accident on their way to slaughter. That’s because the meat industry has a history of hiring drivers with records that read like rap sheets. And until industry officials enact strict safe-driver policies, all of us — humans and animals alike — are at risk.

Just last month, for example, a truck loaded with pigs ran off U.S. 258 in Isle of Wight County, Va. Several pigs were ejected, and 55 were killed. Others were left to suffer in the hours following the crash. PETA discovered that the driver involved in this accident has been charged with at least 15 traffic offenses in North Carolina since 1995, including reckless driving, speeding (five violations) and seeking to evade federal safety regulations.

Abysmal driving record

Also last month, a tractor trailer carrying nearly 1,000 turkeys for a company called Circle S Ranch Inc. crashed in Henry County, Va., killing hundreds of the birds. And again, PETA found that the driver had an abysmal driving record, including a conviction for driving while impaired and driving while his license was revoked. His past charges also include felony manufacture of a controlled substance.

Circle S Ranch’s history of such crashes — and its slow, inhumane response to them — is just as abysmal. Despite wrecks in June 2012, March 2011, August 2010, February 2010 and September 2009 involving trucks that were hauling the company’s turkeys, it took more than four hours for Circle S employees to arrive at last month’s crash site. When a truck hauling 600 turkeys for the same company flipped last year on the very same road, several witnesses reported seeing workers jump on live birds, throw them against the side of a truck and smash their heads against cages.

I have witnessed the aftermath of numerous crashes such as these and have seen the mutilated remains of animals who were killed on impact. I’ve seen debilitated and terrified survivors be dragged by the ears and electro-shocked onto replacement trucks bound for the slaughterhouse, and I’ve watched the most badly injured finally be killed by having bolts driven into their brains — bolts that sometimes malfunction. But you don’t need to be present at a crash scene to grasp the urgency with which meat-company officials must act to prevent these deadly wrecks.

In a perfect world, all companies that transport farmed animals would have crash-response policies in place to ensure that animals who are victims of crashes are promptly rescued and humanely handled. (Actually, in a perfect world, all kind people would stop eating meat, and this wouldn’t even be an issue.) But at the very least, these companies must use common sense and prohibit hiring or contracting with drivers who have repeated driving-related offenses or are found ever to have been at fault in a crash.

By putting drivers who are known to be dangerous behind the wheel, the meat industry is also putting anyone who happens to be on the road with one of these drivers at risk. If you don’t want to support companies that have so little regard for your (or animals’) well-being, then please don’t buy their products. It’s that simple.

Dan Paden is a senior research associate with PETA’s Cruelty Investigations Department. Distributed by MCT.

Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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