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).