The Writings of
Vasu Murti

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THE NEXT DISTRACTION
Politics and Passions - Winter 1995-96

Part 6
Slaughterhouses

In Diet for a New America, John Robbins writes that " ‘Meat-packing plants,’ as slaughterhouses are euphemistically called, are not exactly the most pleasant of working environments. Just being surrounded by death and killing takes an incredible toll on a human being.

"The turnover rate among slaughterhouse workers is the highest of any occupation in the country. The Excel Corporation plant in Dodge City, Kansas, for example, had a turnover rate of 43% per month in 1980 -- the equivalent of a complete turnover of its entire 500 person work force every two and a half months.

"Slaughterhouses are particularly difficult to describe because we have been systematically taught not to think about them at all. You probably don't know where a single one is located, so whitewashed have been our minds to their existence. But I can tell you they are not places Walt Disney would want to make a movie about. One writer called them:

‘...infernos of nauseous smells, pools of blood, and screams of terrified animals.’

"Just about everybody finds the atmosphere of the slaughterhouse uncomfortable. Even the meat producers themselves don't exactly want to spend their vacations there...Amidst this carnage, workers in blood-spattered white coats and helmets are in constant motion, removing cattle legs with electric shears, skinning hides with whirring air knives, disemboweling animals with razor-bladed straight knives. The floors are slick with animal grease, and the air is thick with stench.

"It is a terribly difficult atmosphere in which to work. According to U.S. Labor Department statistics, the rate of injury in meat-packing houses is the highest of any occupation in the nation. Every year, over 30% of packinghouse workers suffer on-the-job injuries requiring medical attention.

"It's a few steps removed from anything you'd see at Disneyland."

Go on to: Part 7: Just Like Us?
Return to: The Next Distraction

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