Rights and responsibilities in the meatpacking industry In the early twentieth century, at the height of the progressive movement, "Muckrakers" had uncovered many scandals and wrong doings in America, but none as big the scandals of Americas meatpacking industry. Rights and responsibilities were blatantly ignored by the industry in an attempt to turn out as much profit as possible. The meat packers did not care if poor working conditions led to sickness and death. They also did not care if the spoiled meat they sold was killing people.
The following paper will discuss the many ways that rights and responsibilities were not being fulfilled by the meat packing industry. At the turn of the twentieth century "Muckraking" had become a very popular practice. This was where "muckrakers" would bring major problems to the publics attention. One of the most powerful pieces done by a muckraker was the book "The Jungle", by Upton Sinclair. The book was written to show the horrible working and living conditions in the packing towns of Chicago, but what caused a major controversy was the filth that was going into Americas meat. As Sinclair later said in an interview about the book "I aimed at the publics heart and by accident hit them in the stomach." # The meat packing industry took no responsibility for producing safe and sanitary meat.
One reason for this problem was that there was no real inspection of the meat. A quote from "The Jungle" tells of a government inspector checking the hogs for Tuberculosis, "This government inspector did not have a manner of a man who was worked to death; he was apparently not haunted by a fear that the hog might get by before he had finished his testing. If you were a sociable person, he was quite willing to enter into conversation with you and to explain the deadly nature of the ptomaines which are found in tubercular pork; and while he was talking with you you could hardly be so ungrateful to notice that a dozen carcasses were passing him untouched." # This obviously led to tubercular meat being processed in the packing house. Another problem was the incredible lack of sanitation and the use of spoiled meat, another quote from "The Jungle" tells of how dirty it was in these plants "There would be meat stored in great piles in rooms; and water from leaky roofs would drip over it, and thousands of rats would race about on it. It was too dark in these storage places to see well, but a man could run his hand over these piles of mean and sweep off handfuls of the dried dung of rats. These rats were nuisances, and the packers would put poisoned bread out for them; they would die, and then rats, bread, and meat would go in the hoppers together." # There was nothing the packers would not do to make a profit, if meat went bad they would pickle it or make sausage out of it, "there was never the least attention paid to what was cut up for sausage; there would come all the way back from Europe old sausage that had been rejected, and that was moldy and white-it would be dosed with borax and glycerin, and dumped into the hoppers, and made over again for home consumption." # The Packers took no responsibilities for the sickness that these meats caused.
It was not uncommon for people to die from sickness they had gotten from eating bad meat, this is also an issue in "The Jungle" when a young family member suddenly dies one morning, "it was the smoked sausage he had eaten that morning-which may have been made out of some of the tubercular pork that was condemned unfit for export." # Disease was also a factor for the workers, as quoted from the book "Meat and Men "Let a man so much as scrape his finger pushing a truck in the pickle-rooms, and he might have a sore that would put him out of the world." # It was also not uncommon for people to fall into the vats and become lard. "The public revolted at the idea of human flesh going into the lard they used." # The meat packers ignored the publics right to safe, clean meat. After reading "The Jungle" president Roosevelt was outraged and ordered an investigation of the packing houses. The result he said was "hideous and Sickening"#. Roosevelt denounced people "who poison for profit"#. The investigation reported that "The stockyards were filthy and unsanitary; the packinghouse atmosphere was noisome and the drainage worse; inspection, limited to the time of killing, was insufficient to detect all diseased animals." # As news of these conditions hit the public meat sales plummeted, it is said that "The Jungle "created vegetarians for decades after its release.
Demand for reform grew in America. The Meat inspection Act of 1906 set rules for sanitary meatpacking and government inspection of meat products. The Pure Food and Drug act also passed after the Meat inspection Act of 1906. The packers denied the charges and opposed the bills to no avail.
These bills protected the publics right to safe sanitary meat. In conclusion it is obvious to see that rights and responsibilities were not carried out by the meatpacking industry. They were greed driven business men who "poisoned for profit" as president Roosevelt said. The meat packers had a right to make their product but did not take the responsibility to do it in a manner that was safe to the consumer. Thanks to people like Upton Sinclair and Theodore Roosevelt, the meat industry today takes the responsibility to make a safe quality product of the public. Bibliography 1.
Corey, Lewis, Meat and Men: A study of Monopoly, Unionism and Food Policy (New York: The Viking Press, 1985). 2. Sinclair, Upton, The Jungle, (New York: Bantam Books, 1906). 3. Divine, Breen, Fredrickson, Williams, eds. , America Past and Present Volume II: since 1865 sixth edition (New York: Longman 2002)..