“No pig calls me / No sow is interested in me / As long as I live here”, it is almost like mockery, the phone is silent.” Max Raabe sings in front of his palace orchestra, slightly narrow-hearted. Light entertainment with a touch of the golden twenties.
Today, at the beginning of the twenties of this secularism, it is again about lard in the broadest sense. But the text should now read “Nobody is interested in this sow.” And this in two respects:
For one thing, no one cares about the 16.7 million pigs that The Tönnies company slaughtered in 2019. With a market share of 30.3 percent and sales of 7.3 billion euros (+ 9.8% in 2018), it is by far the largest supplier in Germany. The second largest group, Westfleisch, based in Münster, manages “only” to a share of 14 percent with a comparatively modest 7.7 million pigs slaughtered. Here, it seems, mass instead of class counts! Animal welfare is rather questionable.
On the other hand, the ‘poor pigs’ from Eastern Europe are also outside the public interest, which – exploited by subcontractors – are loaned out as factory workers for piecework in the slaughterhouses. Official hourly wage 8.75 euro – at least 1,500.00 euros gross. That is, at least officially, the name of the people. The extent to which the recording of working hours is tricked is another matter. Also, that these workers get the cost of their factory workers’ flats immediately deducted from their wages. Between 200 and 300 euros per person, five, six, seven in a small apartment. A 60sqm apartment, occupied by six workers, costs 1,500.00 euros. Or 25,00 Euro per square meter. That’s just under seven euros more than the rental level for Munich for apartments of comparable size. This exploitation and these conditions have been known for a long time – but as long as I live here, it is almost like mockery, the phone is silent. In other words, little has been done about it.
The SPD wanted to make it more difficult to outsource work through work contracts with third-party companies in the coalition negotiations in 2013. The Union, with its Economic Council, the Association of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises and the Parliamentary Group of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises of the Union, immediately blocked.
But now the Corona pandemic, the outbreak of tönnies with more than 1,550 confirmed cases, has made all the drama and conditions in the meat-processing industry too obvious. As in the health and education sector, civil protection or digitalisation, mistakes are now being revealed and brought into the public’s consciousness. Such a large number of sufferers, thousands of people in quarantine, some fenced in their shelters and shielded from hundreds of police – and a looming new lockdown in the district of Gütersloh. None of this can be “worked through” unnoticed.
But who is to blame for this situation? Here – as so often – “Black Peter” is played. The “black Armin”, his sign Prime Minister of NRW, was afraid that his rapid easing after the lockdown was to blame and passed on the responsibility – ethnically charged – just as quickly: the outbreak in Rheda-Wiedenbrück had arisen “because Romanians and Bulgarians have entered and the virus is coming.” The culprit, then, is the exploited, who are already at the very bottom of the hierarchy. The indignant reactions to diplomatic upsets with Bulgaria were not long in coming. Rightly so.
Is Clemens Tönnies to blame for everything? Which is looking for profit maximization and for doing so with the help of subcontractors to make Eastern Europeans cheaply created for themselves? That would be obvious. Or is he just doing what everyone is doing, within the limits of what is legally possible? (Others manipulate emissions values for more profit).
Are the subcontractors the culprits who, as modern labour slaves, plough these people into partly run-down flats or rooms in which no distances can be observed? They really exploit them and pull them over the table at every opportunity?
Or “politics”? The legal framework that makes this possible. At least not doing enough to curb these excesses. After all, it’s about economic growth, tax revenues and prosperity (at least for us) – or even a donation to the party. For example, the Tönnies Group regularly donates to the CDU.
In the end, do we all – as consumers – contribute to our buying behaviour and to the scandalous conditions? “Greed is horny” apparently also applies to food. And if the kilo of pork chop shack is to end up migrating over the cash scanner for 3.99 euros, the slaughter of a pig can only cost the 1.50 euros that it costs in the industrial farm. On the other hand, many precarious workers, ALG II recipients, students or pensioners can only afford these cheap goods. Or are these people no longer allowed to eat it? Conversely, of course, the question arises as to whether we really all need an average of 60 kilograms of meat per year or whether there is actually more. But renunciation has always been unpleasant – especially if you have to start with it yourself. I don’t want to take myself out of it.
Julia Klöckner is right when she tweets: “Meat is too cheap. Junk prices on the #Theke do not reflect the value. Because animals were slaughtered for it, we should always be aware of that. Small #Schlachthöfe are hardly known on site, because the concentration on a few large ones has increased.” Unfortunately, this statement is far from credible, considering that – after all, as Federal Minister for Food (!) and Agriculture , she probably used herself for this cheap meat in a cooking show sponsored by “Kaufland” and broadcast by the “BILD” less than seven weeks before this post.
In any case, the problem is much more complex than one might think at first. Each of the named people contributes their part to the current situation. That is why everyone is now in demand: we as consumers, industry, politics. We must all consider and discuss openly whether it can, can or should simply continue. Or whether we need to take other paths in food production.
The public interest would at least be there now.