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The Slaughterhouses

Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

In every survey taken across the world, the worst jobs that emerge are sewage cleaners, and people that work in the factory farm and slaughterhouse industry which includes fish, poultry, piggeries, cattle and, of course, all the other species you can think of – from rabbits and dogs to goats and camels.

Millions of people work in slaughterhouses, dragging animals out, stringing them up, bleeding them, breaking their bones, slitting their throats, skinning live beings. These are the direct killers. But equally horrible work is, growing them in tight miserable conditions, giving them injections every day, cleaning out their food and faeces, loading them into overcrowded trucks and then pulling them out half dead already. A poultry worker kills roughly 35,000 chickens a year. These people work in dirty, smelly, blood filled, unsanitary conditions. Workers are usually trained for one specific part of the process. For example, some workers kill and bleed the animals, while others make a series of cuts to separate fat, muscle and bone, some skin them while still conscious, others boil them alive. Hour after hour, day after day, the workers interact with countless animals in various states of fear and pain. They work with the constant noise of dying animals protesting till the end. They return home full of the germs of dried blood. What could they dream about at night and what aims propel them? How many women would marry a slaughterhouse worker? What do their children say when they are asked "what does your daddy do?" Could this be the reason that all slaughter involved workers live together in tight, slovenly ghettos all over the world (with the highest crime percentages) – so that they meet only their own kind?

Slaughterhouse workers, which include fishermen who go out into the ocean and spend the day hunting and killing the animals of the ocean, have so many kinds of jobs – one more terrible than the last.

For instance, these are jobs that are so strange that one wonders how poor (or mentally disturbed) you have to be to do them :

Animal Masturbator: The sperm of animals is always in great demand, whether by researchers or famers, who want artificial insemination. The only way to obtain the sperm is to masturbate the animal and catch the semen in a pot. Whether it is a pig, ram, horse or bull, people have to physically excite the animals. When dealing with a bull, there have been cases were people have been seriously injured during this procedure. There are other options: They can ram an electric probe up an animal's rectum, shove an artificial vagina onto the animal's penis, or simply do it the old-fashioned way - manual stimulation using the hand. Electroejaculation generally requires anesthetizing the animal and is typically used on zoo dwellers. The AV - a large latex tube coated with warm lubricant - is used primarily to get sperm from dairy bulls. The bull gets randy with a cow; when he mounts the animal with his forelegs, a brave technician, AV in hand, insinuates himself between the two animals and redirects the bull's penis into the mock genitalia, which he must then hold tight while the bull orgasms. Three additional technicians anchor themselves to restraining ropes attached to a ring in the bull's nose. The same thing applies to pigs and goats.

An artificial insemination technician, also known as Diary Cow Midwife, inserts semen deeply into female bovine vaginas to get them pregnant.

Chicken Sexer: This gentleman stands at an assembly line and picks up fluffy, hour old, chicks, turns them upside down and squeezes their faeces out from their anuses so that he can put a finger inside in order to determine their sex. Tiny bumps indicate a male, while a flat surface is female. The males are killed. This job requires a gentle hand (so as to not damage the female chicks), a good eye (to recognize whether they have a penis or not) and the ability to forget that your whole working life is going to be spent looking at baby chicken’s sex organs.

Animal Shearers : These worthies pin the rabbit down flat on a surface and then shear the hair off, often breaking the bones and making a million body cuts in the process, while listening to it scream. The same applies to sheep shearers – considered the worst  job in Australia, next to Sheep Daggers, whose entire workshop consists of bending over sheep and removing soiled wool from their backsides – a process extremely painful for the animal and backbreaking for the human.

Goose/Duck Stuffers : To make pate foie gras, the diseased duck liver so beloved of rich people, the bird has to have an aluminium or plastic tube put into its food pipe. Workers stuff corn mesh down the tubes the entire day and make sure that the retching birds keep it down. If the mesh gets stuck they have to put their fingers into the tube to make sure it is pushed down into the stomach. This goes on until the liver is as large as the bird and it can be killed.

Pig Hair Remover : The hair is pulled out from hogs while alive. Three people hold the squealing animal down and the fourth pulls out bunches of hair, which are sent to be made into brushes – after the blood is washed off.

Pig Stabber : There is a belief that pigs should be stabbed many times before being killed so that the pork is more edible. People are hired in piggeries to take short knives and stab pigs repeatedly before killing them. A former kill floor manager gave the following account: "The worst thing, worse than the physical danger, is the emotional toll. . . . Pigs down on the kill floor have come up and nuzzled me like a puppy. Two minutes later I had to kill them - beat them to death with a pipe. I can’t care."

Animal Renderer :  Workers who bring the entrails, bones and blood from butchers and slaughterhouses, clean and strip them, boil and sort them, so that these animals can be turned into soap, fertilizer, candles, pharmaceuticals and toiletries (previously, tooth brush handles and teething rings as well.) De-animalising that leads to de-humanising.

You just have one short life. Are you sure you want to spend it killing other species? The pursuit of money cannot justify this, because these are the lowest paid with the poorest working conditions in the world. In India it has become a family profession and often parents start their children off at the age of four so that they know nothing else.  Each slaughterhouse worker suffers from diseases ranging from tuberculosis, asthma and bronchitis, eye, nose and throat irritation, traumatic injuries, noise-induced hearing loss. Most facilities operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – killing and processing hundreds or thousands of animals each hour. As one worker stated: The line is so fast there is no time to sharpen the knife. The knife gets dull and you have to cut harder. That’s when it really starts to hurt, and that’s when you cut yourself. Workers suffer chronic pains in their hands, wrists, arms, shoulders and back. The industry has consistently operated with one of the highest injury rates in the country.

Fishermen experience one of the highest rates of fatalities among all classes of workers. They must stay at sea for extended periods, and withstand adverse weather and sea conditions, catch, extract and store fish, load and unload. Depleted supplies of fish in many waters add an element of uncertainty regarding the success of expeditions.

How sad that humans should want to do jobs like this. These jobs are killing not just animals but destroying the rest of the world through polluting the land and water and bringing about climate change so that all of us are unsafe. Instead of trying to increase our meat exports, the government should be looking at retraining slaughter workers and letting them get jobs that keep their self respect and bring more money.

And you can help them by becoming vegetarian. 

To join the animal welfare movement contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , www.peopleforanimalsindia.org

  • Written by Denis Giles
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It’s time for Ethical Wool to Become a Reality

By Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

Many people think that the wool industry is made of sheep gamboling in pastures. That no animal are abused or killed. That placid sheep stand in line quietly and men with large electric scissors shear their hair off.

Not true.

Before you buy wool see the PETA video, released in 2017, of the treatment of sheep in the shearing sheds of the main wool farms across Australia. The undercover video showed workers violently punching frightened sheep in the face, stomping and standing on their heads and necks, slamming their heads on the floor, beating and jabbing them in the head with electric clippers. The violent shearing process left large, bloody cuts on their bodies and workers stitched up gaping wounds with a needle and thread without any anesthesia. Says one photographer "The shearing shed must be one of the worst places in the world for cruelty to animals … I have seen shearers punch sheep with their shears or their fists until the sheep's nose bled. I have seen sheep with half their faces shorn off …"

Three years before this, in 2014, Peta exposed similar abuse in the top wool exporting farms. Many owners and workers were arrested and given cruelty convictions. The industry vowed to reform. The secretary of the Shearing Contractors’ Association of Australia said that the 2014 footage had been a “wake-up call” to the industry and vowed to implement a zero-tolerance policy on cruelty to animals

After a few weeks it was business as usual and the cruelty was resumed.

Shearers are the bottom of human evolution - illiterate, impatient, insensitive farm labour, who are paid per sheep. It doesn’t matter whether they cause the frightened animals distress and injury, they simply want the numbers done and their wages.

Is this the only country where such terrible things are done by shearers? Similar exposés have been done in Argentina, Chile and the United States, and they show the same brutality.

If the wool farms are not going to stop this, it is upto us, the consumes, to do it. Go wool free (God, thank you for acrylic !). You could write to wool retailers across the world to demand better conditions. You could start a shaming process through social media.

But, let us look at another way which has worked beautifully in another sector – and which I am very proud of.

Twenty years ago carpet importers, from Europe and America, were under pressure to stop doing business with India because we had been accused of using little children to make them. I was not in government. We made a group called Rugmark, moved into Varanasi and Bhadohi, and went from carpet maker to carpet maker and removed the children. We sent some back to their parents in Bihar where they had been kidnapped from, we put others in orphanages and schools which we established. By the time the exercise was over, children were out of the production system. Carpet exporters signed a pledge, which holds good till today, that they would never use them again. They were then allowed to buy labels from us called Rugmark, and Germany took the lead in promoting the label, which meant Childfree. Soon Pakistan and Nepal followed suit with the same label. The label was paid for by the foreign importers – Rs1 per label at the time and it went to the upkeep of children and their schooling. Rugmark solved an ethical problem and the industry was a willing co-operator.

We need to solve this problem with a similar label. Australia and New Zealand are the largest exporters of wool. Australia alone accounts for one fifth of global wool production. India is one of the top importers of wool from Australia. 60% is imported by China (and they couldn't care less about cruelty). They buy the worst wool. Then comes Italy with 20%. They buy for high fashion designers like Armani. We are the third largest with 15%-18%, and growing at 17% every year. In 2018 Australia exported 152 million dollars worth (41.47 million kg) to India. We import carpet wool, greasy wool, scoured wool, clipped wool, tannery wool, lamb's wool, merino wool and wool waste

We use this wool to make carpets, handloom fabrics, yarn, hosiery and knitwear - cardigans, pullovers, socks, gloves, mufflers and suit material. Carpet manufacturers blend domestic with New Zealand wool. We export the finished products. In 2014 our raw wool imports were 96.13 million kg, 8% higher than the previous year. In 2014 we imported 356 million dollars worth and exported 1.05 billion dollars. In 2019 it is 1.14 billion. Every year we export more because knitwear has a huge market, and our clients range from South Korea, UAE and Japan and, of course, Europe and the United States. Most of the main wool companies are in Ludhiana. From 2014 we have become the highest importers of wool from the United States, with 1.16 million kg.

We are big enough to influence the way sheep are kept, and treated, all over the world.

India’s wool industrialists need to develop a label that says Ethical Wool. Consumers now object to buying things which are not made by paying ethical fair wages, millions have gone vegan or organic, most designers have given up fur. Why not apply this new morality, and distaste for wickedness, to wool ?

Companies like Patagonia have already stopped using wool from the general market, and source it from wool farms that have ethical practices.

Our companies should refuse to buy wool from farms that have cruel shearing practices. There is a hideous practice called mulesing. Sheep are grown to get more and more wool on their bodies - some cannot even walk any more. Because sheep hair is oily, and the area round the anus is warm, and full of faeces and urine, sometimes blowfly lay their eggs on the skin, and the larvae feed on the sheep’s tissue. This, of course, makes the sheep sick and the quality of hair goes down. So, what the industry does is even worse. They cut the skin from the buttocks without anaesthesia. What would you do if some sick individual tried to cut large chunks of skin and flesh from around your anus? Flystrike, as the problem is called, can easily be avoided with better management and the use of skin insecticides. But Australian wool farmers employ very few labourers in order to keep costs down, so sheep are generally neglected. The industry defends mulesing by saying while it hurts the sheep, it saves them from being eaten by flies. This is not true. Flystrike only afflicts farmed, not wild, sheep and this is because the skin keeps getting increased so that more wool can grow on one body. The increased heat and folds are attractive for blowflies. It also creates very unhappy animals assaulted by handlers and shearers. And with each breeding generation, the industry favours sheep with the densest skin folds, thus ensuring that each successive generation will be even more vulnerable to flystrike.

When the world threatened to boycott mulesed wool, Australia vowed in 2004 that they would ban it by 2010.  It is 2019 and they have still not done it. Many clothing companies have pledged not to use wool from sheep that have undergone this procedure.

There are many other horrible things that happen to sheep. For instance, Sharlea sheep have been mutated to produce a certain kind of wool. However, the same genetic mutation has also made them blind and unable to walk. Millions of sheep perish every year on large wool farms due to disease and individual neglect that occurs when animals, meant to roam freely, are squeezed together. Adequate health, and veterinary care for ailments, is non-existent. And, at the end of their "productive" lives, they're shipped to slaughter to the Middle East in overcrowded ships. 

If we confined our label to anti-mulesing and anti-bad shearing, castration, tail-docking, and ear-punching, we would go a long way. If our Indian wool industry would hire one animal welfare organisation in Australia to check randomly, and then give ethical wool labels, it could change the world. When India banned Pate foie gras in 2014, so did dozens of countries in Europe. When we started Rugmark and cleaned up child labour, it had an impact on so many industries who used child labour. It is time for Ethical Wool to become a reality. 

To join the animal welfare movement contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , www. peopleforanimalsindia. org

  • Written by Denis Giles
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A Major Food Safety Issue

By Maneka Sanjay Gandhi

Eggs have always been considered to be a standard safe food. Few people realise that every egg is different, and some may not be fit to eat at all.

An egg is made up of albumen, yolk and a porous shell made of calcium carbonate. The internal ingredients of an egg can be altered so that the natural composition changes by manipulating the feed of the hens. For instance, in Japan Omega 3 and iodine have been introduced into the eggs.

This means that the quality of the egg depends largely on the food given to the egg layer, and the conditions she is kept in. It is affected by many factors, before and after its laying. Everything from the weather, type of feed given to the hen, amount of water consumed by her, cleanliness of the surroundings, number of hours that she spends in daylight and even the way she breathes, can drastically change the composition of the egg. The way an egg is handled, before it reaches your plate, could make it inedible.

On average, a chicken egg should contain about six grams of protein and six grams of fat. To produce this level, it is essential that a laying hen receives a balanced diet, with adequate levels of protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins and minerals. Experts recommend a balanced ration containing 16 to 18 percent protein and approximately 3½ percent calcium, to promote strong eggshells. Laying chickens also require a constant supply of fresh, clean water, as water comprises more than half of an egg’s volume.

The fact, that an egg’s natural composition can be manipulated, is well known to commercial poultry farmers. Chemicals are added to the food so that they produce eggs that are better looking and last longer. Baking soda and ammonium chloride are commonly added as dietary supplements to improve eggshell quality. Potassium chloride is mixed with their water as it makes hens thirstier. The use of antibiotics is also common with Indian farmers, pumping hens with these from the day they are born.

The best eggs really come from hens that spend their days outdoors in a natural environment and scratch for insects, seeds and earthworms in the soil. The eggs you buy do not come from these hens. To ensure high production, with a minimum of money, all hens are kept captive in small crowded cages with a strict controlled environment, no sun, no fresh air and water, chemical food and antibiotics. They are kept under continuous lighting so that they lay more eggs daily. How nutritious would the product of such a stressed body be? India has particularly poor egg quality.

Indian poultry farms are known to be some of the worst in the world, with very low health and safety standards and little regard for public health concerns. Investigations at  poultries show hens covered with sores, badly fed, sitting in their own faeces, covered with spiderwebs, full of mites and lice, fed cannibalistically with the dead bodies of their own kind, cardboard, marble chips, fish meal and grain laced with antibiotics and pesticides. This destroys the nutritional quality of the egg.

Unhygienic rearing practices, and lack of quality control measures, is an open invitation for egg contamination. Despite India being one of the three largest egg producers in the world, with 47 billion a year, they do not meet international standards, and Indian eggs are rejected for export due to chemicals in and outside the shells.

Thick albumen, plump yolks and hard shells are what you should look for superficially. Do buyers look at the thickness of the shell ? Because a thin shell means that the mother has been ill. Diseases like infectious bronchitis, Newcastle disease, avian influenza  and egg drop syndrome, affect the shell quality. Infectious bronchitis virus causes soft/rough shelled eggs, discolouration and wrinkling of the shell. The egg, as a result of disease, has pale egg yolks, runny egg whites and rough shells. A deformed eggshell means the chicken has had a number of serious diseases.

The shell is formed by the activity of cells lining the oviduct and uterus. When the egg layer is under stress, the secretions of these cells become acidic. In extreme cases, stress induced effects can result in eggshells that are misshapen and have excess deposits of calcium - a powdery "bloom" on the surface.

During summer, the hen, already in a small stuffy cage, reacts by panting in order to cool herself. This produces a condition termed "respiratory alkalosis". The pH of the blood becomes alkaline and the availability of calcium for the eggshell is reduced. The eggshell becomes thin shelled. The thickness of the shell plays a vital role in preventing bacterial penetration. Thus eggs with thin shells are more prone to microbial attack.

An egg should have phosphorous, zinc, Vitamins A, B 6 ,B 12, folic acid, thiamine and Vitamin D. During heat stress hens eat less and calcium intake is reduced as a direct consequence of reduced feed intake. This causes an elevation of phosphorous in the blood. Calcium and phosphorus balance is critical for proper eggshell quality. But high levels of phosphorus in the blood inhibit the formation of calcium. When the Calcium and phosphorus ratio is out of sync, zinc and manganese decreases. Vitamin D decreases in a sick bird. So, the egg is left with very little in it. Due to the lack of exercise in these caged birds, the fat component increases, and then the fatty acid composition in the yolk changes from healthy to unhealthy.

In free range poultries – which simply means that they are not in cages, crowded on the floor – chickens have a hierarchy. Those down the chain often lay whiter shelled eggs, with poor internal quality, due to the stress that they are under.

Many studies show that tap water containing sodium chloride has an adverse effect on eggshell quality.

What hens eat is of crucial importance. Every hybrid layer bird should have a specially devised diet. That does not happen in India. Feed nutrients are used by poultry owners without any knowledge of their nutritive value. They feed the cheapest food to their hens. If soya meal is expensive, they will replace it with cotton seed defatted cake and guargum, Nothing of these has any nutritional value.

When you eat eggs sourced from poultry raised on antibiotics and growth promoters, you ingest antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Heat cannot break down the antibiotic residues that remain within the eggs. When you fall sick, no antibiotic will be able to work on your disease. India has the largest number of people resistant to antibiotics, and the main reason is that our chicken/eggs carry them.

After leaving the farm, the entire supply chain poses additional risks of contamination to the egg. Cracked eggs (about 6%) are particularly susceptible to outside contamination. A 2005 study in Punjab found residue of hexaxhlorocyclohexane (HCH) and dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) in eggs. These are both banned pesticides, and their presence on eggs is extremely dangerous to human health. Another 2010 study, by S. Dey and S.K. Dwivedi from the Indian Veterinary Institute, found lead and cadmium in eggs. Their study noted that consumption of contaminated eggs could lead to heavy metal poisoning in children, resulting in IQ deficiencies and even mental retardation.

Large scale egg handling invites salmonella and aflatoxin contamination. While most nations take measures to sterilise the egg surface from contamination, especially from Salmonella enteritidis, no measures are taken in India.

In a recent study done in and around Hyderabad, eggs were collected from urban retail outlets and directly from poultry farms. Salmonella bacteria was commonly found on shells and inside the eggs collected from urban retail outlets. Salmonella infection is a bacterial disease that affects the intestinal tract. Typhoid fever, food poisoning, gastroenteritis, enteric fever, are all types of Salmonella infection. It is linked to contaminated water or foods, especially meat, poultry, and eggs. Salmonella bacteria is abundantly found in poultry sheds, water tanks, drinking water and feed in poultry premises. The internal contamination of eggs, by Salmonella, is either because the shell is thin enough to be penetrated, or that the egg was contaminated by the infected reproductive organs  of the hen. Eschericia Coli, Enterobacter aerogenes and Sheigella were the other bacteria found.

The FSSAI laws state that the eggshells must be free of blood rings, must not be soiled, or have faecal matter, and they must not be cracked. They have laid down the hygiene parameters that must be observed during production, processing and handling, which includes sorting, grading, washing, drying, treatment, packing, storage and distribution. They emphasise on storage conditions, like moisture and temperature, so as to reduce microbial contamination.

No one even knows the laws. Poultry farmers, traders, exporters and even consumers, are unaware of the health risks of egg contamination.

Abroad, every batch of eggs has to have the name of the poultry where they have come from. That is how the food inspectors were able to determine so quickly that the eggs, with fipronil pesticide in them, came from 18 poultries in Holland (Indian eggs have the same pesticide in them). In India you have no idea where the egg comes from. Egg consumption is encouraged by the Government. This makes their quality, and contamination, a major food safety issue. 

To join the animal welfare movement contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , www.peopleforanimalsindia.org

  • Written by Denis Giles
  • Hits: 497