This article originally appeared on The Daily Pitchfork.
The brilliance of Michael Moss's much-discussed Times article, "US Research Lab Lets Livestock Suffer In Quest For Profit," speaks for itself. It's a masterpiece of rigorous reporting that culminated in a story of animal abuse told from the rarest of perspectives: that of animals. In this piece, unlike in so much other reporting on agribusiness, animals mattered.
What also mattered was the corruption within the USDA and between the USDA and industry. Moss doesn't deny these institutions - all complicit in the terrible treatment of animals at the US Meat Animal Research Center - an opportunity to defend the horrors they instigated with minimal regulation. Rather, he allows the vacuity of their answers to stand on their own terms.
Notably, after documenting a wide array of federally-sponsored animal abuse, he ends his article with a line that says it all: "The center said it lacked the expertise to assess the pain felt by animals." The lameness here is obvious, which I imagine is exactly what Moss intended.
The difficulty readers will most likely have with the article concerns the graphic nature of the content itself. Animals were serially operated on for experimental purposes by people without veterinary degrees; a cow was restrained by the head and persistently mounted by six bulls in rapid succession until her legs broke, she collapsed, and died; lambs were torn from their mothers and placed out in a desolate field to see how long it would take for them to be savaged by wolves; and so on. All in the name of increased productivity for agribusiness.
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