HIGHTOWER: Fowl Factories

What's the most dangerous animal in the U.S. (besides human beings, I mean)? The rattlesnake? Grizzly bear? Wolves?None of the above. The chicken is the most dangerous animal to us humans. It's been widely reported that this humble bird is now subjected to such an inhumane, industrialized processing system that it now commonly comes to your table contaminated with such bacterial killers as salmonella and E coli. But, less reported is the fact that 40,000 workers will be seriously injured this year as they grapple witht the eight billion chickens that zip along the conveyor belts of America's processing plants.Investigative journalist Christopher Cook reports in Harper's Magazine that in these fowl factories, chickens are not the only victims. Workers called "catchers" go into holding pens that are suffocatingly hot -- each catcher uses his or her hands to grab some 8,000 frightened, pecking, clawing birds a day, with many of the catch cutting and urinating on the workers. Another group called "evisc" workers manually eviscerate the chickens, twisting and pulling the innards from up to 100 chickens per minute -- a job that costs many their fingernails, which are destroyed by the bacteria in chicken carcasses. Workers called "deboners" stand shoulder to shoulder, slicing and hacking with knives and scissors all day -- and slashing themselves as their blades slip off the slimy carcasses or as they slip on floors slick with chicken gore.Cook reports that these workers typically are paid only $6.50 an hour, have 16 times the national average of trauma injuries. It's hard to get workers to do this awful jobs, so processors like Tyson and Kentucky Fried are pressuring congress to create a "guest worker" program so impoverished immigrants can be brought in to do their dirty work.This is Jim Hightower saying ... Hey Congress... clean up this mess ... don't cover it up.

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