Vegans of Color

Because we don’t have the luxury of being single-issue

Who Pays the Emotional Cost of Killing Animals for Food? March 30, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 1:54 pm
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I recently read Making a Killing: The Political Economy of Animal Rights (by Bob Torres of Vegan Freak fame). It’s a good read, & I recommend it. What I want to share is a snippet he quotes from Gail Eisnitz’s Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry (a book I haven’t read). It’s from an interview with Ed Van Winkle, a man who’s worked in many slaughterhouses. Here he talks about what it’s like killing pigs all day as a “sticker”:

“You may look a hog in the eye that’s walking around down in the blood pit with you and think, God, that really isn’t a bad-looking animal. You may want to pet it. Pigs down on the kill floor have come up and nuzzled me like a puppy. Two minutes later, I had to kill them — beat them to death with a pipe. I can’t care.

“When I worked upstairs taking hogs’ guts out, I could cop an attitude that I was working on a production line, helping to feed people. But down in the stick pit I wasn’t feeding people. I was killing things. My attitude was, it’s only an animal. Kill it.

“Sometimes I looked at people that way, too,” he said. “I’ve had ideas of hanging my foreman upside down on the line and sticking him. I remember going into the office and telling the personnel man that I have no problem pulling the trigger on a person — if you get in my face I’ll blow you away.

Every sticker I know carries a gun, and every one of them would shoot you. Most stickers I know have been arrested for assault. A lot of them have problems with alcohol. They have to drink, they have no other way of dealing with killing live, kicking animals all day long. If you stop and think about it, you’re killing several thousand beings a day.” [emphasis mine]

Who works in slaughterhouses? Who bears the mental toll of this kind of work? Predominantly lower-income people of color. In addition to the horrible emotional strain of having to kill for a living, such work is also incredibly dangerous (& needless to say, filled with labor law violations). Human Rights Watch issued a relevant report in 2005: Blood, Sweat and Fear: Workers’ Rights in U.S. Meat and Poultry Plants.

Yet another reason to avoid eating meat (“humanely” slaughtered meat is not an improvement for the animal being killed, of course, & thus not a solution either).


17 Responses to “Who Pays the Emotional Cost of Killing Animals for Food?”

  1. Abram Says:

    I’m glad some people are looking at the socioeconomic implications of the meat industry. So much attention has been put on animal welfare, animal rights, health, and the environment in relation to vegetarianism and veganism. Few people — vegans included — are aware of, or choose to think much about, who is relegated to the killing floors, namely minorities (not just visible minorities though — social, political, economic minorities too, including many poor whites, are similarly affected/used).

    Caring for animals, a healthy lifestyle and ‘going green’ are fashionable at the moment and much easier to do than closely examining race and class injustices and inequalities and the effects on these of our daily choices.

  2. meridith Says:

    “Slaughterhouse” is a tough read (it is very graphic), but it is worth it for anyone who has ever wondered about the people who work in these places. These businesses are only interested in their bottom line- humans and animals are expendable.

  3. Bea Elliott Says:

    Yes, workers are still doing the jobs society even refuses to acknowledge exists….. The further away from the abittior the “happier” their meat is! Obviously, I’m vegan.

    March 25th – the AWI released it’s 5 year study on Slaughterhouses in the US. Gail Eisnitz worked with FSIS officials….. Called “Crimes without Consequences” can be seen here:

    It’s amazing how much report the “downed Hallmark cows” got – and so little on practices happening (to workers and animals) everyday. Very corrupt…..

    For health & heart….. Go Vegan!

  4. Tracy Says:

    Thanks for this post! It helps to know these facts when replying to someone who thinks animal advocates don’t care about people.

  5. […] The above is from Vegans of Color. Read the whole post here >> […]

  6. Excellent post, as usual.
    It frustrates me that the human issue of slaughterhouses don’t get more media attention. I was first exposed to these horrors by reading Fast Food Nation. Before that, whenever I thought about farm worker/migrant worker/ food worker exploitation I thought about grapes and Cesar Chavez. Now I think about slaughterhouses and fast food joints.
    It gives me yet another reason to go and stay vegan.

  7. Joselle Says:

    I found a link to your site from Elaine Vinegault’s blog. This is just what I’ve been looking for. Can’t wait to read more.

  8. cat Says:

    Does Making a Killing outline how poor people of color fall into these jobs?
    Do you know the demographic of POC in this line of work?

    I was just wondering cuz my sociology mind is thinking about statistics.

  9. VegChub Says:

    I haven’t read the book, but the workers are often undocumented immigrants. I work with undocumented immigrants in the city–they are so poor back home that $7/hr allows them to send money home to their family, money their families are so desperate for. I have never met anyone that doesn’t dream of going back home.

    A slaughterhouse job pays even better, because it’s such awful work that no one wants to do. It’s awful, but it helps them help their family, and hopefully make enough money to go home to that family (sometimes young children) even more quickly.

    So when they are mistreated–what are they going to do? Complain and get deported? And let down their families? After risking their lives to come here? They are commodities as much as the animals they are killing, though they are more likely to make it through alive, at least physically.

    Great post.

  10. VegChub Says:

    Should add to the above–Spanish-speaking immigrants is what I mean to say. Maybe there are others, but I am primarily familiar with immigrants from Mexico (and some other Spanish-speaking countries).

  11. noemi Says:

    in reference to poc and slaughter houses, do a google search on Cactus, Texas- Swift packing & immigration raids.

  12. vegansofcolor Says:

    Thanks for all these comments, folks! I’m glad so many of us are thinking about these things.

    I meant to put in the original post that I know that migrant workers picking crops are exploited & often work in unsafe conditions too (pesticides, etc.) — but it does sound like slaughterhouse work is even more dangerous, & obviously also has the dead-animal aspect.

    Making a Killing didn’t really have specific demographics, but I bet Slaughterhouse does.

  13. Veganlicious Says:

    Building on noemi’s comment–not just in TX, those raids have been going on across the country. Boom, one raid and a devastated community left behind– tons of families left destroyed (normally it’s the dad, who may be making half or all of the family’s income in addition to being father/husband). I don’t know how that’s supposed to help anyone.

  14. […] the book Slaughterhouse, quoted here:… Which brings up another issue: the interconnectedness of oppressions. Well, just go read the VOC […]

  15. […] “You may look a hog in the eye that’s walking around down in the blood pit with you and think, God, that really isn’t a bad-looking animal. You may want to pet it. Pigs down on the kill floor have come up and nuzzled me like a puppy. Two minutes later, I had to kill them — beat them to death with a pipe. I can’t care.” Slaughterhouse via Vegans of Color. […]

  16. […] Pig-eating is remarkably similar to dog-eating. Pigs are so adorable, so smart, so dog-like. Pigs are social, they wag their tails, they communicate. Pigs are often docile and playful, just like dogs. A slaughterhouse employee recalled: “Pigs down on the kill floor have come up and nuzzled me like a puppy. Two minutes later, I had to kill them — beat them to death with a pipe.” (source) […]

  17. […] bloggers here share many of the same concerns as Renee: the treatment of farm workers (as well as slaughterhouse workers); the sustainability of veganism; PETA (there have been so many posts slamming PETA on this blog I […]

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