AWI on Irradiation

Public Interest Groups Denounce Giant Food's Decision to Sell Irradiated Meat

Groups Urge Chain to Remove Product from Shelves

The Animal Welfare Institute has as one of its primary goals the eradication of animal factories because of their inherent cruelty.  At the same time we are reviving a culture of humane farming.  AWI promotes humane husbandry and works with over 200 family farmers that adhere to AWI's humane pig husbandry standards which allow pigs to behave naturally. AWI, like the humane farmers we work with, strongly opposes food irradiation!

Irradiation is being promoted by corporate interests as a solution to a contaminated industrial food supply.  However, irradiation is not an inherent part of farming, it is only the most recent technological component of large-scale industrial agriculture which is continuously problematic. 

Irradiating meat at the end of production, does not address the real and most importantly preventable causes of industrial food contaminants such as inhumane factory farming practices, dramatic cutbacks in federal food safety inspectors and dangerously accelerated line-speeds at slaughtering and processing facilities.

Knowing that meat will be irradiated, industrial producers will have even less incentive to reform the inherently filthy and inhumane conditions of massive factory farms where animals are viewed as protein production units and death loss is accepted as a cost of production.   Irradiation will do nothing to abolish the cruelty animals suffer in factories such as the confinement of pigs in crates so narrow they cannot turn around and beef cattle forced to stand ankle deep in their own waste.  Irradiation, in fact, will perpetuate and most certainly increase the abuse of farm animals.  Rather than accepting irradiated meat, we ask that consumers demand humanely raised and slaughtered animals.

Irradiation also masks cruel conditions in slaughterhouses.  Federal inspectors are not stationed in, and have little to no access to, those areas of slaughterhouses where most humane handling and slaughter violations occur.  Rather than irradiate meat at the end of production, we call on USDA to station inspectors, on a fulltime basis, for the purpose of enforcing the Humane Slaughter Act regulations at those critical points in the handling and slaughtering process where Humane Slaughter Act violations are most common such as the unloading and handling areas and the stunning and bleeding areas.

Instead of irradiating meat and allowing atrocities in slaughterhouses to continue, line speeds in slaughterhouses must be reduced to 1970 levels or around 40% of current velocities.  Current line speeds prevent animals from being killed in accordance with the Humane Slaughter Act and as a result meat becomes contaminated with feces, urine, pus and vomit.  Irradiation does nothing to remove these contaminants.

Irradiated food perpetuates a system of meat production that relies on the inhumane treatment of animals.  By masking the food safety problems caused by cruel practices and inhumane conditions at massive factory farms and slaughterhouses, irradiation allows industrial agriculture, and its appalling treatment of animals, to continue.  Irradiating meat at the end of a cruel line of production is tantamount to placing a Band-Aid on a surgical wound.  We ask Giant Food and consumers everywhere to reject irradiated products in favor of a humane and safe food supply.

--Wendy Swann, Animal Welfare Institute, Nov. 14, 2002