Tragedy both human and animal

This is, it seems, the age of the unrepentant meat eater. Of course it’s a lot easier to be unrepentant when you’re only seeing the clean, blood-drained, plastic-wrapped cuts of what was once a cow, a pig, a chicken. It’s easy, in feeding our hunger for cheap meat, to forget not only the animal tragedy but the human as well.

The New York Times (and many others before it) pointed out today, the illegal immigrants who worked for incredibly low wages at Agriprocessors in Postville, Iowa, were ill treated after Homeland Security raided the plant in May. And anyone familiar with industrial meat processing can tell you that the workers weren’t treated much better when they were employees.

It’s not just the meat industry, of course. Industrial agriculture — Big Food — has an addiction to cheap labor and that often comes in the form of illegal immigrants from Latin America. But the industry does it on our behalf; if we didn’t expect 99-cent burgers, the story would be different.