On August 23rd of 2012, the American Meat Institute released a video on YouTube that features Temple Grandin explaining the humane slaughter of cattle at a typical beef plant. The AMI initiative is called The Glass Walls Project. Here are links for both the American Meat Institute website and the Glass Walls Project video:
We travelled to Washington, DC on November 30th to speak with Janet Riley about the new meat industry focus on transparency. She is also the Animal Welfare Liaison for the AMI and has worked extensively with Temple Grandin over the past two decades. As she explained to us, one of the reasons for transparency is that many animal activist undercover videos of slaughterhouses show the animals’ hind legs kicking and claim that these are live and sentient animals. However, these movements are autonomic reflexes that occur after an animal has been rendered insensible to pain and is unconscious. What is important is to look at the head to see that the eyes are open in a wide blank stare, that the tongue is distended, and that the head is floppy.
I asked Janet to explain how the transparency video project was initiated. She said, “For so long we’ve heard Paul McCartney make his claims that if slaughterhouses had glass walls [everyone would be a vegetarian], but I started to say, why don’t we test that?” She told us that the response to the video has been very positive and that there are now over 25,000 views. The AMI also sends free DVDs to educators who want to use the video in their classrooms.
Janet also took the time to show us the AMI insensibility grid that she personally developed: Signs of a Properly Stunned Animal by Stunning Method. The grid looks at all of the signs of insensibility based on species and stunning systems. Species included are cattle, pigs and sheep. Stunning methods included are captive bolt, electric, and CO2.
“There are really good reasons to ensure humane treatment,” Janet explained. “Everybody feels better in a plant where animals are respected. And typically, if you respect animals, you respect people.”