“If slaughterhouses had glass walls, we’d all be vegetarians.” The Beatle and decades-long vegetarian, Paul McCartney, has been speaking out for animal rights for many years.
Most people, even meat eaters, love animals. Aside from fishers and hunters, it will be hard for you to find someone that willingly hurts or kills animals. And even if you ask the biggest meat eater you know whether or not he or she likes animal suffering, they will likely say no.
The disconnect between people and meat is simply astonishing. Urbanization has taken people from the farms and into cities where they have no connection to animals.
Slaughterhouses are kept at a distance and don’t try to attract visitors. While some allow tours, photography and video are generally prohibited.
In fact, there are even laws in some places that protect companies on their mission to keep as many secrets as possible. These businesses fought to pass what is known as ag-gag laws that will punish those looking to expose the horrors within the walls of slaughterhouses and on factory farms.
That average 50 per state.
This sentence is being written on January 19th, 2019. In the United States, less than three weeks into the new year, over 400 millions land animals have been killed in slaughterhouses.
By the end of the year, that number will be over eight billion land animals just in the United States and over 55 billion including sea animals.
That is the number of all sentient beings that have been killed in the first 19 days of 2019.
Nebraska kills more animals than any other state in the US. Approximately 11.5 billion pounds (5.2 billion kilos) of murdered animals come out of Nebraska each year. That is about 8.7% of the US supply of slaughtered meat.
Close behind Nebraska are Texas and North Carolina.
But no state is free of guilt. There are slaughterhouses dotting the US map and across countries worldwide.
A slaughterhouse is a highly efficient facility where animals are slaughtered to harvest their meat for human consumption.
Slaughterhouses used to be much smaller and with fewer regulations and efficiency. Before the Industrial Revolution started emptying rural areas in favor of highly populated cities, many small farms slaughtered their own animals. They then sold their meat to people they knew in their communities.
As more people flooded cities, the demand for meat increased and slaughterhouses started opening up in cities.
The main problem with that, however, was the health and sanitary concerns. Having animals housed and slaughtered so close to where so many people were living drew outcry.
New laws emerged and slaughterhouses started spreading to the peripheral, out of sight and out of mind.
The combination of slaughterhouses becoming more desolate and the urbanization of society started what has now become an enormous disconnect between people and their food.
This disconnect is exactly what the meat industry wants as it makes their consumers more likely to eat meat and not think of the products as slaughtered animals.
Most of what we know from inside of slaughterhouses come from undercover videos and former slaughterhouse employees.
While many slaughterhouses will distance themselves from others caught on video for abusing and torturing animals, the end results in each and ever slaughterhouse on the planet is the same. Animals are killed as fast and efficiently as possible.
In a slaughterhouse, cows are not cows, pigs are not pigs, and chickens are not chickens. They are commodities that need to be quickly chopped up into food that will eventually make its way to the consumer.
They are not sentient beings: they are products.
Everyone has seen the headlines. Most people aren’t willing to watch the footage, though.
It happens all the time. Activists infiltrate slaughterhouses and record the horrors that happen behind the scenes.
Simply searching “animal abuse in slaughterhouses” will yield tens of thousands of search results in Google News.
What’s worse, governing bodies and those in charge of implementing rules and regulations to these abuses will usually turn a blind eye to what is going on inside.
Usually, the standard protocol in the United States issued by the USDA (the United States Department of Agriculture) is what’s called a Memorandum of Interview. This is essentially a fancy expression for something that is less than a slap on the wrist. There are no fines involved, no one loses their jobs, operations and business continue to run as usual.
Because slaughterhouse workers are working toward the most efficient workplace possible, they adopt cruel ways of speeding things up.
And when you’re dealing with thousands of cows or pigs that all must be slaughtered quickly, the last thing they want is a bottleneck when the animals are ushered to their imminent death.
Slaughterhouse workers use stun guns and cattle prods to shock and beat their animals into submission. If a cow is walking too slowly or a pig tries to run away, the workers will shock the animals into obedience.
From having their ears tagged and sliced for identification purposes to animals being shot in the face, the range of cruelty existing in slaughterhouses is vast and evil beyond imagination.
Footage surfaces from undercover cameras of workers kicking, punching, and slamming animals into walls. Animals are chained and dragged across slaughterhouse operations and beaten with tools ranging from cattle prods to shovels.
Before even arriving at the slaughterhouse, they are packed into trucks and driven great distances. These animals fear for their lives on these trucks and there are even cases of pigs jumping from moving trucks on highways while trying to escape their unfortunate fate.
Even in the mythical cases of “humane” slaughterhouses, there is rampant abuse and mistreatment of animals.
The famous case of Agripocessors just goes to show that labeling the killing of sentient beings as humane is nothing more than marketing and lies.
Agriprocessors was the world’s largest glatt kosher slaughterhouse was eventually closed down after years of shocking cases of abuse. Kosher slaughterhouses are meant to minimize the suffering of animals and provide the most “humane” experience possible.
PETA spent years investigated Agriprocessers and some of their investigation notes are extremely difficult to read.
Every aspect of the slaughterhouse seems to be taken from a page of a dystopian work of fiction.
Big ag and the food industry only focus on profiting off of animals and the human addiction to meat. They have completely disregarded animals as sentient beings.
When an animal is viewed as a product and not a living creature, the idea of treating them humanely simply ceases to exist. Some slaughterhouses will point fingers and say they are different. However, it’s important to remember that not a single slaughterhouse exists in the world without rivers of blood on their hands.
Beyond the unimaginable suffering taking place in the minds of billions of animals every single year, the workers at slaughterhouses are also affected by the work they do.
Slaughterhouse workers didn’t wake up one day with the urge to brutally kill cows and pigs.
Food companies tend to open up slaughterhouses in rural areas with few work opportunities for the local population.
And while most people would happily choose any other job aside from working the kill line at a slaughterhouse, many don’t have choices and need to provide for their families.
While it is easy for most people to say that they would never partake in something so cruel as working in a slaughterhouse, it’s naive to try and understand everyone’s situation from afar.
Slaughterhouse workers are usually in for a rude awakening when they start the new jobs.
Many slaughterhouse workers describe the redundant work as numbing and traumatizing. They try and block out as much as possible as they become completely desensitized to the reality they face every moment while at work.
In a chilling op-ed written by an ex (and anonymous) slaughterhouse employee, they say that he/she still has “suicidal thoughts from the guild. I still dream about it now, and I can’t look at the dead animals packaged up in the supermarket.”
Most slaughterhouses operate 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. A report released by Oxfam showed that many workers at some of the largest food companies were denied breaks while working. Some workers even went as far as wearing diapers while they worked because they weren’t even allowed to use bathrooms during their shifts.
Aside from cruel work conditions, slaughterhouse workers get paid very little. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, half a million people in the US alone work in slaughterhouses. The average workers make around $12/hour and less than $28,000 per year before taxes. Considering the psychological and physical trauma of this kind of work, the compensation is low and leaves workers less inclined and motivated to treat the animals well.
Combine the horrors these workers face on a daily basis with the pressures of a fast-paced, chaotic work environment. It’s no wonder that many slaughterhouse workers come out the other end with severe psychological damage.
Beyond the risk of severe physical harm and low pay, slaughterhouse workers suffer extreme psychological trauma from their work as well.
According to the PTSD Journal, slaughterhouse employees are trained and “hired to kill animals, such as pigs and cows that are largely gentle creatures. Carrying out this action requires workers to disconnect from what they are doing and from the creature standing before them. This emotional dissonance can lead to consequences such as domestic violence, social withdrawal, anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse, and PTSD.”
In the early 2000s, the meat industry in the United Kingdom was hit heavily by foot and mouth disease. Many workers lost their jobs but some were paid extra to go in and kill as many animals as possible. They needed to try and get rid of the disease that was spreading rapidly between the animals.
One worker, “Brad,” told VICE about his experience as a slaughterhouse worker. “You’d be killing 300 to 400 cows a day, for weeks. I was a loader, so I’d load bodies onto the fire, which is the only way you could kill the disease. There were just piles and piles of burning bodies, big black acidic smoke and the smell of barbecue in the air. You had to keep going over to make sure the bodies were still burning. Most didn’t make it; they’d end up crying and had to leave.”
There are many different ways that we can actively decrease the number of animals being killed in slaughterhouses.
Many of the ways we can end the abuse take a lot of time. This can discourage most people looking to make fast changes to the system.
While going vegan is the ideal way to end animal suffering, it isn’t realistic to think that all people will just go vegan.
Human habits are extremely hard to break. And while eating meat has become a human habit, it is actually much more than just that. It isn’t like cracking your knuckles or biting your fingernails.
Eating meat is cultural. It’s something humans have been doing for countless generations, even though we don’t need to be doing anymore.
The traditional and cultural aspect of eating meat is ingrained in human behavior. Asking most people to stop would be like asking a religious person to stop having faith.
Not everyone is going to go vegan. It’s important that we understand that so that we don’t push people away. We want them to try other options that might lead to the potential end of animal farming and suffering. We don’t want division.
A lot of people are betting on technology and innovative solutions to help end animal farming once and for all.
The End of Animal Farming: How Scientists, Entrepreneurs, and Activists Are Building an Animal-Free Food System is a phenomenal book by Jacy Reese.
Reese brings the reader on an eye-opening journey about how the Silicon Valley mindset can change our food system.
Companies like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods are leading the way in creating “meat” products that come from plants but taste like the real thing. Their target market does not consist of vegans (though they benefit greatly as well). Meat eaters are their target.
Beyond plant-based meat companies, there is also clean meat that can help end animal farming the way we know it today. Clean meat is actually meat. Companies like Memphis Meats are working around the clock to create meat that is identical to the meat people around the world eat today. The only difference is that it is created in a lab using animal cells, not from a slaughterhouse that kills factory farmed animals.
The clean-meat movement can help drive far more people toward a plant-based diet. At the same time, people are able to satisfy their old habits that are hard to kick.
It is very likely that future generations will look back at slaughterhouses and shake their heads.
Slaughterhouses have evolved into efficient machines that serve on purpose and one purpose only. They are designed to kill as many animals as fast as possible.
Slaughterhouses aren’t going anywhere for the foreseeable future. But companies around the world are working tirelessly to make sure they eventually close their doors for good.
Billions of dollars are being invested in new ways to create food. This will pull meat eaters away from the status quo and into a new world that is more humane. We need to treats animals with the love and respect they deserve.