Killing for a Living: The Traumatic Consequences of Slaughterhouse Work   
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The images in the following program are highly sensitive and may be as disturbing to viewers as they were to us. However, we have to show the truth about cruelty to animals, praying that you will help to stop it.

This week on Stop Animal Cruelty we present part one in our two-part series on the tragic toll of working in slaughterhouses, where billions of animals are callously murdered each year.

What is it like to work in a slaughterhouse? Most abattoirs use assembly lines to quickly and cheaply massacre and process the animals. Workers are paid very low wages, and the jobs are degrading, gruesome and repetitive. Employees must endure sickening scenes of blood, gore and death every day, and the working conditions are extremely dangerous.

Many slaughterhouse workers feel trapped in their jobs, having no other way to provide for their families. Such a traumatic occupation exacts a huge price – draining a worker’s physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being. One couple who worked in a chicken-processing plant in England describe their former jobs.

I did several kinds of jobs in the chicken factory. First my role was to hang the live chickens. They had to be put on a line that led to the slaughtering. If the job for this was already filled, then my task was to hang the already dead chickens.

I had a job in the factory on the line, in which we selected the chicken breasts and chicken legs. And it was given how many grams could be in a box. And that had to be selected and arranged in a shape. So even that mattered, in what order they were in the box. Because we were always at a different line, there was another section where we cut the chicken breasts into pieces using scissors.

The point is that, just like an animal, they made us work under very cold, very bad conditions. No break, no rest, no work clothes. (No work clothes either?) Nothing, nothing, nothing (No.) I had to put on the only pair of rubber boots which had been taken off by the person before me. If they were wet from him, I just had to work also in wet rubber boots.

These obscene killing factories can be absolutely massive in size. The largest slaughterhouse in the world, operated by a company in the US, can butcher over 32,000 pigs a day. And in the US alone, 270 chickens are slain every second or about 8.5 billion chickens a year. To kill and process this many innocent beings, employees are under constant pressure to work quickly and keep the murderous assembly lines going.

There were machines. There were machines everywhere.

These were very powerful machines that the person had to put the chicken inside one by one, from the right or left side. But your hands had to be fast there, like a machine. And even then, they were shouting a lot and were strict.

They were shouting at us, "Faster, faster!" If you weren't fast enough, you were told to leave.

But one aspect of abattoirs is even more revolting than the working conditions.

Because of the drastic sights in the factory, because of the torture of animals, the animals did not have a chance. And this was very disgusting and disturbing to us that every day just more, and more, and more (of this).

We hanged the chickens every day, and I saw every day the large amount of meat, the carcasses, the bodies of that huge number, many thousands, many thousands of chickens. I reflected upon how many thousands of chicken go away in a month, in a year, and that all of these are living beings.

And to fulfill animal-torturing roles like this, this was a very bad sight. And it was very bad to think about the fact that we raise something only to be killed under such torturous conditions, and to eat it.

Witnessing countless deaths day after mind-numbing day is utterly devastating to one’s mental state. In her report, “A Slaughterhouse Nightmare: Psychological Harm Suffered by Slaughterhouse Employees and the Possibility of Redress through Legal Reform,” Jennifer Dillard, a lawyer in the United States, examines some of the many psychological problems, including post-traumatic stress disorder, suffered by slaughterhouse workers.

And in her book, "Slaughterhouse," Gail A. Eisnitz, chief investigator for the Humane Farming Association, describes the crippling mental effects of this violent line of work. For many employees, the endless bloody murders they see at these factories of death continue to haunt them, even long after they leave their jobs.

We are sorry for what happened and that we also had to see this, what people do to an animal. We cannot forget what happened there and the things we did. It was a very bad experience for me.

And I do not wish this upon anyone. How they keep those animals, as we said, in the 21st century, and what they do to them, it's hideous. It is horrible. This is a horrible sight. It is like murder. Everything is covered in blood, and she (the chicken) is still alive. Her head is no longer there, but her body is still alive. And it's terrible.

Do the workers ever think about the feelings of the animals they slay? Former slaughterhouse employee Ed Calles, now a vegan, shares some of his personal experiences.

I grew up the son of a dock foreman in a beef slaughterhouse. When I got back home from the Vietnam War, I went to the slaughterhouse where my father was working, and took on some work. Back then I saw many things that were fairly disturbing, not knowing how de-sensitized I had become. I saw animals being led to their slaughter. That really impacted me.

Was this the purpose they were put on Earth for? I asked myself that question over and over as I saw them coming out of the cattle trucks and into the corrals and even jumping the corrals and fearing for their lives, running down the avenue, and taking on automobiles head-on, crashing into them. And this animal was in fear of her life. So, in seeing that, I was just aghast. How cruel! I mean, I had been back from the war and saw a lot of cruelty and death and killing and that sort of thing, and here I was, in need of a job, and I saw all this cruelty again.

Constantly surrounded by the animals' heart wrenching cries for help as well as blood, urine and feces, slaughterhouse employees often try to find ways to cope.

Eventually, I became desensitized. But in my heart of hearts, I knew there was something wrong here. I didn’t know exactly what. Guys carried on in a bloodthirsty kind of lifestyle. During work, in the early morning hours, loading trucks with these animal carcasses, men drank all night long; (they were) severely intoxicated. But they did their job.

And I was offered a lot to drink, but I couldn’t. Now looking back at it, I think they had to. Because it was their way of desensitizing themselves. I just wanted to be at peace with myself and everybody around me, but I just couldn’t find it there.

In Ed Calles' experience, the brutal work often resulted in another outcome.

These men had episodes of rage and anger if little things didn’t go their way. Many times there were drunken brawls over the smallest of things. And the toughest guy was the guy who picked up, the most amount of weight, that you just gave more respect to.

But a smaller little guy would pick up something and start swinging, I mean (swinging) hooks, (the) big hooks that these pieces of meat would roll down the dock to, for us to swing them, and cut them and load them. So many times there was an outbreak of a fight. And a lot of it just was not making much sense. And I had to find another way out, and eventually I did.

Slaughterhouse workers can become so unfeeling to death and devoid of compassion that they sometimes injure or kill animals simply for amusement. Les Ingram, a former slaughterhouse employee in the UK, recalls one such incident.

And so one young bloke I remember, he goes down in the lairage one day, and he’s carrying a boning knife. And there are pens full of sheep. And he just stuck the knife through the bars and stabbed it into the side of a sheep. I said, "What did you do that for?"

When you're going into those places, killing animals is part of everyday life, because that’s what happens there. So it must affect some people quite badly. Whether people manage to deal with it, and whatever the system they use to deal with it, some do (have it), but some don’t.

Are people who live in the vicinity of a slaughterhouse also affected by the murderous atmosphere? Jaylene Musgrave, a vegan in Australia whose father worked in an abattoir, shares her childhood experience.

Each night, I'd go to sleep and you'd hear the cows mooing and you could just feel the fright and terror that they were going through. And I just felt sick all the time, knowing that these poor animals were being held captive and what they were going to go through. It just made me always anxious. And I never, ever want to live near anything like that, ever again.

While the employees in a slaughterhouse may be doing the killing, they are actually just one part of a system that supplies meat to consumers. Hence there’s only one way we can end this murderous cycle: adopt a plant-based diet.

I actually think that anyone that consumes animal products should take time to visit an abattoir. The people that work in those situations are doing the dirty work for consumers. And I believe that if anyone who wants to eat meat had to slaughter their own animal, we’d have a lot more vegans in this world.

How do the workers handle their heinous jobs? What happens when an employee can’t cope? Does working in an abattoir affect family life? Please join us again next Tuesday on Stop Animal Cruelty as we answer these and other questions in the concluding episode of our series on the horrors faced by slaughterhouse workers.

Thoughtful viewers, thank you for joining us on today's program. Enlightening Entertainment is coming up next after Noteworthy News, here on Supreme Master Television. May all beings on Earth enjoy long lives filled with peace and dignity.
The images in the following program are highly sensitive and may be as disturbing to viewers as they were to us. However, we have to show the truth about cruelty to animals, praying that you will help to stop it.

If people have to kill a living, breathing, loving, gentle, innocent animal to put in their mouth, I think they will stop. Just that most people they don’t know what cruel, gruesome thing in the slaughterhouse for the animals to be killed. They don’t know it. It’s out of their mind.

They don’t even associate that piece of meat with the living, breathing, loving, gentle, kind, innocent, loving, living being. They don’t associate. But if they have to go out and kill it for themselves, then I think they will stop.

This week on Stop Animal Cruelty, we present the concluding episode on the tragic tolls of slaughterhouse work. Each year, 60 billion animals are murdered worldwide, many of them being killed by abattoir employees.

Most abattoirs use assembly lines to quickly and cheaply massacre and process the animals. Workers are paid very low wages, and the jobs are degrading, gruesome and repetitive. Employees must endure sickening scenes of blood, gore and death every day, and the working conditions are extremely dangerous.

Such a traumatic occupation exacts a huge price – draining a worker’s physical, emotional, mental and spiritual well-being. According to US Department of Agriculture statistics, in 2008, 4,032 cows, 13,248 pigs and over one million chickens were killed every hour in the US. Hour after hour, day after day, slaughterhouse employees are engaged in this endless, bloody slaying of innocent animals.

Les Ingram, a former slaughterhouse worker in the UK, recalls the vicious process, which begins by stunning the animals with a bolt gun.

It’s just like a tube that they just put on the head, and as it contacts, it explodes and pushes the bolt into the skull to make the hole where they put the pithing cane, which they push through the hole in the skull and then it curls up. They push it in and out as it goes in the skull. It just curls up and just smashes all the brain up here. And then obviously the other part of it is the bleeding of the animal. So the throat is cut and they're bled, over the blood bath. And then, once they're bled, they bring them round, and then start skinning them.

For the cattle, the shooting box was in the corner. And then the cattle race, that they used to come up into the shooting box, came from the lairage. I suppose the cattle race is about 25-30 feet long. So, the cattle in the race, and in the pens behind obviously, because of the nature of the building, they must have been able to hear what was going on. Obviously they’d be able to smell what was going on.

And most of them looked absolutely terrified, when they came into the shooting box. I used to say, "They know what’s coming." Some of them would do anything to try and get out of that box, leaping up, trying to climb over the top. But they couldn’t because it was too high.

Mr. Ingram recalls the reactions of outside people whenever they visited the facility.

We used to get people coming around the slaughterhouse. You know, groups of students, people who perhaps they were going to be vets or some other profession like that. And you could see the faces as soon as they walked into the slaughterhouse while the killing was going on. You could see them start to heave with the sights of all the blood and noise and everything else.

Surrounded by blood, urine, feces, pus, animal body parts and dismembered organs, these murderous jobs severely affect the workers’ physical health. Between 2006 and 2008, 24 employees from two pig abattoirs in Indiana and Michigan, USA respectively fell ill with a paralyzing neurological disease. Each of these workers had been removing brains from pig skull cavities using highly compressed air.

Doctors later determined that the illness was caused by the inhalation of minute particles of pig brain tissue. Another serious problem is the devastating impact this violent environment has on the mental state of those involved in slaughterhouse operations. Jaylene Musgrave, who founded the Australian animal welfare organization Vegan Warriors, describes how her father, a slaughterhouse inspector, was profoundly affected by his job both physically and mentally.

He had to go and inspect the carcasses, to ensure that there were no diseases so that they were fit for human consumption. And this meant that quite often he was around animals that had been slaughtered where there were diseases, and that in turn made him sick. And he spent quite a lot of time in hospital being treated for the diseases that he'd picked up through that work.

Did it have any effect on his mental or psychological health as well as his physical health?

Yes, I truly believe it did, because he started to become quite an angry man. And I think it was having to deal with violence and death on a daily basis (which) really affected his psyche. And it came out in really bad ways. He started to drink very heavily. I don’t know how he would go to sleep at night. And I think that’s why he turned to drinking because it dulled the feelings that were inside of him.

There were a lot of men, because it was mainly men that worked there, that drank a lot. And unfortunately also that would turn to violence within the family home. And I do believe that has to do with what they had to go and do every single day. And I’ve thought about what impact it must have on them, going home knowing what they’ve done. So I suppose alcohol in those days definitely was very prevalent. And I would say today a lot of them would maybe even do drugs. You know, to cope with it, to try and blot it out.

Like Ms. Musgrave’s father, Les Ingram and his fellow workers also tried to block out the stress and trauma from their jobs.

Well, I think a lot of the blokes in the industry used to deal with it with the help of alcohol. I used to go to the local football clubs after work every night; I'd be there until closing time. It's one way of dealing with what you’ve been dealing with all day; push it to the back of your mind. Go for a game of darts, game of cards, a few beers.

And I think a lot of blokes were only able to cope with the situation because of that. I mean in fact one of the slaughtermen that used to work there, every morning he'd have a fresh bottle of whisky. He used to nip in and out of the locker room, and that bottle of whisky would be gone during the course of the day.

Sometimes the behavior of abattoir employees manifests the madness that surrounds them at work. Les Ingram recalls one horrendous incident at the slaughterhouse.

They had a lot of ewes coming in at one particular point, and a lot of the ewes were actually in lamb and very close to having those lambs born. And so, of course, during the process of being slaughtered, the bags were taken out, and the lambs were inside the bags.

And there was one in particular quite big. And they opened the bag up and took the lamb out and got some paper towels; wiped around her mouth, blew up her nose a few times, gave her a bit of a rub, and the lamb started breathing and was actually, alive and ready to go.

But this amused them for a few minutes and (then they) said, “Oh well, time to get on with the job.” (They) just sssst, just cut (the lamb's) throat, just like that. They brought her to life out of the womb, got her going, and then just cut her throat. And that was just for amusement. That was the sort of thing that used to go on.

This same utter lack of caring and compassion has been seen in those who kill animals for a living outside the walls of meat processing facilities.

They become desensitized to what they’re doing. I mean, anybody who can go up and hit a baby seal over the head is the same kind of mentality that’ll go and stomp a kitten to death, you know? I find it completely unfathomable to see how anybody could do that, but I’ve seen them do it and they actually look on us as being strange that we don’t partake of that.

The obscene violence shown towards animals in a slaughterhouse can also turn into violence towards fellow humans. Dr. Amy Fitzgerald, assistant professor of criminology at the University of Windsor, Canada, concluded that, in the United States, the link between slaughterhouses and murder, rape and other brutal crimes is an empirical fact, and that an average sized slaughterhouse with 175 employees increases the number of annual arrests in a community by 2.24 and the annual reports of violence by 4.69.

I really do feel that anyone involved in having to be hands-on in the taking of an animal’s life, I think it does really get into the psychological aspect of a human being, and how they are in this world and how they walk around in this world. I’ve read of so many instances of people that have committed horrendous crimes towards people, serial killers and so forth. (They) have tortured animals on many occasions.

We lost the father that we knew, who was kind and gentle. And he became very angry at the world. And he became very, very violent and very aggressive towards my mom and towards us kids. And I really do think it was all because of what he was having to go through every day at work and being surrounded by the fear and the death.

Jaylene Musgrave’s father's aggressiveness towards his family continued. Eventually he committed a violent crime and was sentenced to prison.

What was it that led to your father spending time in prison?

He actually couldn’t cope with the stress at the time, and what was going through his head and his feelings. And he took it out on my mom. And, unfortunately we had a gun and he shot my mom. (It was) very fortunate that my mom didn’t die, although she was disabled by it. So I know that my father, that evening after it had happened, went down to the river and put the gun in his mouth to take his own life, but he didn’t go through with that. And that led to him being jailed.

I saw a lot of things I didn’t like, that were absolutely shock... shocking. And they never, ever leave you. It’s just like replaying a video Putting it on, you know, reverse, and then playing it back again and again and again. Because they never do leave you. I certainly wouldn’t go back to anything like that. You know, even if it was the last job.

We are grateful to Les Ingram, Jaylene Musgrave and the others we interviewed for this two-part series on the physical dangers and psychological trauma slaughterhouse workers encounter in their occupation. We pray that we soon live on a vegan planet, where such destructive and debilitating jobs no longer exist and all animals lead tranquil lives.

Conscientious viewers, thank you for joining us for today’s program. Up next is Enlightening Entertainment, right after Noteworthy News. May our magnificent planet always be at peace.

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