Darkest days: Closures of meat plants mean animals being shot and gassed

Pigs to be slaughtered
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The darkest days for the extermination of farm animals and the plight of the farmers having to kill their stock has spread along the Midwest, and there’s no light at the end of the tunnel.

According to the New York Times, one Minnesota farmer piped carbon dioxide into his barns through the ventilation system to kill his herds of pigs. Another farmer decided to shoot the pigs in the head with a gun; that took him all day.

Nevertheless, once the pigs get too big to be slaughtered, farmers are killing them and having to dispose of their bodies without ever going through the food chain. If the pigs grow over 300 pounds in their first six months of life, they become too dangerous for meatpacking workers to hoist them up for slaughter. Now farmers are trying to keep the pigs smaller by either feeding them less, raising barn temperatures or making their feed recipes less appetizing.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, people who haven’t worked in nearly three months have been forced to stand on food line after losing their jobs. Limits of food products are already being seen in the supermarkets; fresh beef, poultry and pork are being rationed. Wendy’s has run out of hamburgers at hundreds of stores.

The number of pigs now being slaughtered and not used for food is staggering. Many farmers are not expected to survive the pandemic amid the closures of the slaughter plants. In Iowa, the nation’s largest pork producing states, the backlog of hogs is expected to reach 600,000 over the next six weeks. In Minnesota, 90,000 pigs have been killed on farms without ever getting near the now shuttered, often infected with Covid-19 workers too ill to

Even for the farmers who have been in the pig business for generations and are using the advice of nutritionists to curb the weight of their pigs, they are simply running out of space. One farmer gave his pregnant sows injections to  make them abort their baby pigs. Others have sold pigs on Facebook and Craigslist. Some people have purchased pigs to slaughter them and donate their meat to food banks.

Pigs, however are not the only victims of an agricultural mess. Egg producing companies are “depopulating flocks in the field.” One company in Minnesota gassed 61,000 chickens. Nearly two million birds or farms in Delaware and Maryland have been killed.

Because pigs are highly intelligent and become stressed easily, group gassing is touted as the most “humane” method of rendering them unconscious before they are slaughtered. The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act specifically includes cows, pigs, horses, pigs, mules and sheep. Chickens, turkeys and ducks are not included, although the USDA does have regulations regarding the production of chickens to avoid contamination.

Surely the farm animals all deserve better. There’s the old saying – “if slaughterhouses had windows, no one would eat meat.”

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