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“We’re all going to suffer … ”

September 24, 2011

Slaughterhouse reels as grocers reject pork shipped live to isles
By Andrew Gomes

A financially struggling slaughterhouse on Oahu, indebted to taxpayers, has been further imperiled after the two largest kama­aina supermarket chains decided to quit selling pork from hogs shipped live to Hawaii from the mainland.

The move by Foodland Super Market and Times Supermarkets, announced Tuesday, will substantially reduce business for the slaughterhouse owned by a private cooperative, just a few months after the state agreed to invest $750,000 to help sustain the facility at Campbell Industrial Park.

If the facility is forced to shut down, it could cut off the supply of fresh pork in Chinatown markets and the ability for local ranchers to expand a fledgling market for grass-fed Hawaii beef, according to agriculture industry representatives and the slaughterhouse operator.

“We’re all going to suffer,” said Leonard Oshiro, manager of the facility operated by Hawaii Livestock Cooperative.

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Oshiro said it’s too soon to determine the fate of the operation, but he estimates the two supermarkets will cause a 15 percent loss in business that will require laying off four of 14 employees. “They will be on the unemployment line,” he said.

Calvin Wong, owner of Wong’s Meat Market Ltd. and president of the slaughterhouse cooperative, said he isn’t sure the operation can sustain another hit after struggling for a decade and surviving in part with government loans.

“This will be another nail in the coffin,” he said.

Meat processors import about 11,000 to 14,000 live pigs a year, representing the bulk of business for the slaughterhouse, which butchers about 850 pigs a month.

The slaughterhouse, Oahu’s only U.S. Department of Agriculture-certified slaughterhouse, opened around 2002. The co-op was set up by hog farmers, dairy farms, meat processors and other stakeholders on state land in part using a USDA loan. The facility was built in connection with a meat-processing plant developed by Palama Meat Co.

The demise of dairies on Oahu, high feed costs, the recession and other pressures over the past decade have challenged the slaughterhouse economically. Pressure on Palama Meat mounted more quickly, and it filed for bankruptcy in 2004.

The co-op sought support earlier this year from the state Legislature in the form of a grant or investment.

Two bills considered by lawmakers sought a grant to help the co-op avoid bankruptcy. An alternative bill asked the state to spend $1.6 million to acquire slaughterhouse facilities and make them more efficient.

The bills drew support from the state Department of Agriculture (which has previously made loans to the co-op and is owed $600,000), the Hawaii Farm Bureau Federation and the Hawaii Cattlemen’s Council.

But the bills also attracted an avalanche of testimony from animal rights groups, vegetarians and others that railed against what they characterized as a bailout of a failing business.

More than 500 pages of written testimony, including a petition with close to 475 signatures condemning the bill, were submitted.

Nicole Rosacia Jao told lawmakers in an email that slaughtering animals is an immoral luxury, especially at a time of government budget shortfalls and public service cutbacks.

“Slaughtering animals for food is unnecessary because nature has provided ample vegetables, fruits, grains, and legumes for human sustenance,” Jao wrote. “It makes no sense for the state to use taxpayer money to promote a meat-based diet, which has been linked to increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer and many other illnesses.”

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Doreen Adams, a vegan, testified that people involved in slaughtering animals for food are more apt to perform violent acts against other animals and people. “There will always be war, killing; there will never be peace in this world if people continue to slaughter animals,” Adams wrote in an email.

No slaughterhouse bill passed. But lawmakers inserted $750,000 in the budget to pay for a photovoltaic system to reduce slaughterhouse electricity costs that would go a long way to make the operation more viable.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie hasn’t released the money. It was uncertain Wednesday whether he intends to.

One of the main opponents of the slaughterhouse bills, the World Society for the Protection of Animals, claimed victory Tuesday for persuading Foodland and Times to quit selling pork from pigs shipped to Hawaii live.

The group claims that the one-week ocean voyage, often in cramped and filthy conditions, causes suffering as well as relatively high illness and death rates. Since 2008, the WSPA has campaigned to end such shipments.

State officials have criticized the WSPA’s report, saying 99.5 percent of pigs arrive alive and healthy.

“We inspect all the shipments that come in,” said Jason Moniz, a veterinarian and animal disease control program manager with the state Agriculture Department.

A 1.4 percent mortality rate figure cited by WSPA based on 218 pigs dying en route to Hawaii between Sept. 1, 2006, and Aug. 31, 2007, included one shipment whose 83 pigs died from heat wave conditions on the mainland bad enough to kill people, Moniz said.

The WSPA said it hopes other retailers, mainly smaller markets, follow the example of Foodland and Times. Safeway, another supermarket chain in Hawaii, hadn’t sold pork slaughtered locally.

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no more slaughterhouses
no more pain
no more bloodshed
would be an extraordinary gain
if manunkind would remove
animals from his plate
kindness would start
at meal time
and that sure sounds

Karen Lyons Kalmenson

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Athena Chakiris Hogue permalink
    September 24, 2011 7:10 pm

    I say BRAVO to the two markets that refused to accept shipments of live pigs for slaughter. The people involved in the business of cruelty will never, ever have one iota of sympathy from me…how unfortunate for them that they chose slaughtering animals as their way of earning a living.
    If anyone says these pigs don’t suffer on these trips, cramped together and unable to lie down, eat, drink, etc., I suggest they give it a try themselves…I think they’ll be singing a far different tune.


  2. September 25, 2011 8:02 am

    no more slaughterhouses
    no more pain
    no more bloodshed
    would be an extraordinary gain
    if manunkind would remove
    animals from his plate
    kindness would start
    at meal time
    and that sure sounds


  3. September 26, 2011 2:43 pm

    I wonder what happened to “the pork that was shipped live,” These people don’t have a clue. My heart aches for the pigs that don’t suffer the transport but are murdered locally.


  4. linda badham permalink
    September 30, 2011 2:10 pm



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