Sunday, October 07, 2012

How Liberals and Conservatives Conspired to Bring You a Tainted Meat Crisis

In 1997, the Chretien Liberal government bowed to pressure from a combination of provincial government and business interests to transfer the responsibility for meat inspection from Health Canada to Agriculture Canada.  (A similar combination of provincial and business interests lobbied successfully  for the non-implementation of the Kyoto Treaty --see a pattern?) Since then, corporate concentration and free trade have led to the development of huge meat processing facilities like the one in Brooks, Alberta.

More recently,  the Harper Conservatives have loosened regulations and modified immigration policies to ensure a supply of less educated, less secure  and more deferential workers to do the hard work of meat processing.

While acknowledging the seemingly inexorable arguments about the value of economies of scale in this-like-any-other industry, I wonder if we shouldn't miss the decline in local  butchers and abbatoirs. And the decline of high standards, whether in the integration of  foreign workers or in the ensuring of meat safety, on the part of  the federal government.


Bernard von Schulmann said...

In the past when we had a lot more small abbatoirs but their track record could be very mixed meaning small outbreaks happened. We have very few small scale meat processors left in BC.

In theory a large plant has better capacity to ensure everything is done by the book, but when something goes wrong it really goes wrong.

I worked with some small scale ranchers looking for some alternatives to how to handle their meat, it was not an easy task to do something different than the mainstream of the business.

Mark Crawford said...

I don't disagree with this comment , either! It may be that smaller abbatoirs and slaughterhouses are harder to regulate. But if large scale kill plants are potentially better, that potential has to be met, through vigorous H & S inspection and complementary immigration and labour policies.