The need to be right, even when wrong; by the USDA

When I read about the 143 million pound Westland/Hallmark beef recall, I am struck by two competing realities. First, that the plant was slaughtering and processing these cows with such cruelty and inhumane treatment. Yes, it’s wrong of them, and I hope they get what’s coming to them in the biggest way possible. There is no excuse for “kicking them when they’re down,” whether a person or a cow.

But come on. No cow being raised for consumption has a great life. And yet, it’s a food chain sort of thing; it’s the madness of the society we’ve created that we want to distance ourselves from the reality of what we consume, and yet we consume voraciously, and waste outrageously. Still, there are rules, that come from somewhere. You can slaughter a cow that can walk to the slaughterhouse. But not one that can’t.

But what about the recall? Not only was there no evidence of contamination in this beef, the USDA further believes that much of the meat has already been eaten, without incident. So why, then, must the rest now be recalled and destroyed? To do so means that the lives of the 250,000 or so cattle that made up that 143m lbs of beef were completely, utterly, lived in vain. They lived, then they were killed, chopped, ground up, and now they will be burned to ash.

To me, it seems the height of hubris for the USDA to engage in this recall. “This action is necessary because plant procedures violated USDA regulations,” said Ed Shafer, secretary of the department of Agriculture. If ever there was a time for thinking outside the box, this was it. It’s like, “Well, the book says if this happens I have to do that. So I’m doing that.”

I’m appalled by the whole thing, from the incidents at Westland/Hallmark, to the response by the USDA. As a society, we should be better than this. But we clearly are not.

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