Thursday, March 1, 2012

"Conditions at the Slaughterhouse"

       Upton Sinclair's The Jungle in 1906 was a book that shocked the public by exposing  the secrets and conditions of the meatpacking houses in Chicago. It worried the public who thought that the wastes of the  packinghouse were mixed in with their food. Conditions of the meatpacking houses were exposed when people started visiting the packinghouse to get a feel of what was going on. One of the guides who was assisting the visitors stated "they don't waste anything here. They use everything about the hog except the squeal." (Slaughterhouse Conditions) One thing that stood out to me were the swift workers. Once a task was completed, it was sent to the next person without wasting any time, because they knew that time was money. They had a specialized labor with each person having a specific task that they had to complete.

        " One scraped the outside of the leg; another scraped the inside of the leg; one cut the throat; another severed the head; then another made a slit down the body; a third cut the breastbone; the fourth loosened the entrails; a fifth pulled them out and slid them through a hole. "
(Slaughterhouse Conditions)

       The carcasses had to pass a government inspector who checked for tuberculosis by feeling the glands in the neck. If you happen to be approachable, the inspector would explain the substances found in pork that had tuberculosis to you. While this went on, a few dozen carcasses would pass the inspector not inspected. This shocked me to know how oblivious some inspectors could be to not notice the great amounts of meat that were being put away without being inspected. People tend to very gullible when they thought that their meat was disease free just because they saw government inspectors. 

     " The people of Chicago saw the government inspectors in Packingtown, and they all took that to mean that they were protected from diseased meat; they did not understand that these hundred and sixty-three inspectors had been appointed at the request of the packers, and that they were paid by the United States government to certify that all the diseased meat was kept in the state. " (Slaughterhouse Conditions)

       I couldn't understand how cruel and heartless inspectors and the government could be to turn their backs on the public by sending them food that could possibly me infected with a disease. They were putting society in great danger by not using proper sanitation methods as well as trying get rid of any existing form of inspection. Packers wanted to get rid of any form of inspection, because they thought that it was an "interference". Meat would fall onto the dirty floor filled with germs. It was stored in places where water from leaks would drip over it. A man who had the job of shoveling would not pick out a rat even if he saw one. Men used the water that was supposed to be for the sausage to wash their hands before eating. The conditions that workers had to go through were terrible. Men who had to push trucks had sore fingers. Those who used knives had countless amounts of cuts all over their hands. Pluckers had to remove sheep pelts by hand, which destroyed their fingers. Some workers even fell into vats which were used to boil meat into soap and lard.

       Workers had dreamed of freedom and an opportunity to learn, and for their children to grow up strong. These conditions didn't stop them from continuing their work because they needed a wage for grocery bills and rent. After a hard day at work, the workers would often go out and drink, which was the only way to cope with their pain and anxiety until they returned to another day of terror at work. 

No comments: