Thursday, 26 May 2016

The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

 Another great American novel you should read is Upton Sinclair's  ' The Jungle '
 This novel, published in 1906, created an uproar in USA., and led to major legislative reforms regarding food safety.

Upton Sinclair wrote the novel to expose the appalling working conditions in the meat-packing industry. His description of diseased, rotten, and contaminated meat shocked the public and led to new federal food safety laws.

 Americans are consumers of a huge amount of meat. This led to a massive meat processing and packing industry in America.

 At the time the novel was written, the meat processing was done in horribly unsanitary conditions, and the meat sold contained all kinds of filth, but the consumer was unaware of this. So Sinclair disguised himself as a worker and took a job in one of the meat processing plants, where he worked for several weeks, studying the conditions there.

Sinclair saw how diseased, rotten, and contaminated meat was processed, doctored by chemicals, and sold to the public. He wrote that workers would process dead, injured, and diseased animals after regular hours when no meat inspectors were around.

Sinclair wrote that meat for canning and sausage was piled on the floor before workers carried it off in carts holding sawdust, human spit and urine, rat dung, rat poison, and even dead rats. His most famous description of a meat-packing horror concerned men who fell into steaming lard vats:

. . . ": and when they were fished out, there was never enough of them left to be worth exhibiting,--sometimes they would be overlooked for days, till all but the bones of them had gone out to the world as Durham's Pure Leaf Lard! ".

This description of how meat was processed and sold in America horrified the people. They realized that they were eating filth, and sometimes even human flesh, along with their meat. The sale of meat in America rapidly declined.

The White House was bombarded with mail, calling for reform of the meat-packing industry. After reading The Jungle, President Roosevelt invited Sinclair to the White House to discuss it. The president then appointed a special commission to investigate Chicago's slaughterhouses.

The special commission issued its report in May 1906. The report confirmed almost all the horrors that Sinclair had written about. One day, the commissioners witnessed a slaughtered hog that fell part way into a worker toilet. Workers took the carcass out without cleaning it and put it on a hook with the others on the assembly line.

The commissioners criticized existing meat-inspection laws that required only confirming the healthfulness of animals at the time of slaughter. The commissioners recommended that inspections take place at every stage of the processing of meat. They also called for the secretary of agriculture to make rules requiring the "cleanliness and wholesomeness of animal products."

New Federal Food Laws

President Roosevelt called the conditions revealed in the special commission's report "revolting." In a letter to Congress, he declared, "A law is needed which will enable the inspectors of the [Federal] Government to inspect and supervise from the hoof to the can the preparation of the meat food product."

Roosevelt overcame meat-packer opposition and pushed through the Meat Inspection Act of 1906. The law authorized inspectors from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to stop any bad or mislabeled meat from entering interstate and foreign commerce. This law greatly expanded federal government regulation of private enterprise. .

Passage of the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drugs Act in 1906  opened the way for Congress to approve a long-blocked law to regulate the sale of  foods and drugs. For over 20 years, Harvey W. Wiley, chief chemist at the Department of Agriculture, had led a "pure food crusade." He and his "Poison Squad" had tested chemicals added to preserve foods and found many were dangerous to human health. The uproar over The Jungle revived Wiley's lobbying efforts in Congress for federal food and drug regulation.

Roosevelt signed a law regulating foods and drugs on June 30, 1906, the same day he signed the Meat Inspection Act. The Pure Food and Drug Act regulated food additives and prohibited misleading labeling of food and drugs. This law led to the formation of the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The two 1906 laws ended up increasing consumer confidence in the food and drugs they purchased.. The laws also acted as a wedge to expand federal regulation of other industries, one of the strategies to control big business pursued by the progressives.

 The novel is about a Lithuanian immigrant family, the Ludkins, who, along with other immigrants to America, lived in horrid conditions in America. Sinclair's aim was to describe these wretched conditions, but the American public was less concerned with the conditions of workers, and more concerned with their own food which they ate.  Sinclair said of the public reaction "I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach."

 This is the kind of novel Indian writers should write, if they are really concerned about the people's welfare

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