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A Slaughterhouse Nightmare: Psychological Harm Suffered by Slaughterhouse Employees and the Possibility of Redress through Legal Reform



What's the true cost of a hamburger? To the consumer, it's anywhere from under a dollar to, say, ten bucks in a fancy burger joint. But to the slaughterhouse workers, the cost of a hamburger includes the financial and physical hardships of the slaughterhouse work itself. However, even less publicly discussed or understood is the psychological trauma inflicted on slaughterhouse workers. Not only do the employees face serious physical health hazards, but they also view, on a daily basis, large-scale violence and death that most of the American population will never have to encounter. This Note will discuss the psychological harm caused by slaughterhouse work and will propose several methods, including OSHA reforms, workers' compensation, and expansion of tort doctrine, by which the legal regime can prevent the harm from occurring and can compensate the employees for their psychological injuries.
A Slaughterhouse Nightmare:
Psychological Harm Suffered by Slaughterhouse Employees
and the Possibility of Redress through Legal Reform
Jennifer Dillard
“The worst thing,, worse than the physical danger, is the emotional toll. . . .
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.”
—Ed Van Winkle, hog-sticker at Morrell slaughterhouse plant, Sioux City,
What’s the true cost of a hamburger? To the consumer, it’s
anywhere from under a dollar to, say, ten bucks in a fancy burger joint. But
to the slaughterhouse workers, as many Americans are aware,1 the cost of
your hamburger includes the financial and physical hardships of the
slaughterhouse work itself.
However, less publicly discussed or understood is the psychological
trauma inflicted on slaughterhouses workers.2 Not only do the employees
face serious physical health hazards daily, but they also experience, on a
daily basis, large-scale violence and death that most of the American
population will never have to encounter.3 This article will discuss the
psychological harm caused by slaughterhouse work and will propose several
methods, including OSHA reforms, workers’ compensation, and expansion
of tort doctrine, by which the legal regime can prevent the harm from
occurring and can compensate the employees for their psychological injuries.
A. Financial and physical hardships for workers
The animal-industrial complex, a gigantic maze of factory farms,
slaughterhouses, and packaging plants, is a heavily integrated industry in the
1 For example, the film Fast Food Nation graphically demonstrated the physical and
financial strain that slaughterhouse work places on its workers. This film grossed
over a million dollars at the U.S. box office. INTERNET MOVIE DATABASE, “Fast
Food Nation,”
2 This paper will use the terms “slaughterhouse worker” and “meatpacking worker”
3 The fast pace of slaughterhouse work is psychologically taxing, even before
accounting for the violent nature of the work. See Bengt Gustafsson, The Health and
Safety of Workers in a Confined Animal System, 49 LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION
SCIENCE 191, 194 (1997) (“In present-day livestock farming with large herds, many
animals per man, high working speed, and great economic values at stake, the mental
load can be heavy and result in great stress, especially for people working alone.
Frequent stress situations increase the risk of accidents, injuries and in the long run
mental ill-health. The safest work is performed if the herdsman does not have too
many animals to handle, if he is relaxed and work slowly and quietly and is
consistent in his behaviour. The problem of accident prevention is complex and
requires a cooperation of the engineers planning farm buildings, the occupational
safety and health service, educators, and the farmers and farm workers themselves.”).
United States that kills and processes over 9 billion animals per year.4 This
industry’s production has grown in recent years, while the companies have
consolidated. Between 1982 and 1997, the number of hogs raised in the U.S.
quintupled, while the number of hog farms plummeted from over 11,000 to
approximately 3,000.5 As of 2004, four companies controlled 81% of the
beef market, 59% of the pork market, and 50% of the poultry production.6
“Corporate giants such as Tyson and Purdue now control all stages of
chicken production, from breeding chickens, hatching chicks, and growing
the chickens, to processing and shipping finished cuts of poultry to the
supermarket.”7 While the massive producers have achieved dominance in
the meat industry, the slaughterhouse workers have not reaped the benefits of
the industry’s success.
Despite the growth of meat production, slaughterhouse workers’
wages have been rapidly falling. While slaughterhouse wages have
historically been above the average manufacturing wage, the slaughterhouse
wage fell below the manufacturing average in 1983 and was a whopping 24
percent lower than the average manufacturing wage by 2002.8 In May 2006,
the average slaughterhouse worker made only $10.43 per hour ($21,690 per
year).9 This huge industry employs thousands of low-wage workers, many
of whom—particularly in the slaughterhouses—face serious physical
dangers. The huge demand for meat has encouraged slaughterhouses to
increase the pace of the slaughter.10 “The pace is dizzying. Workers now
make thousands of ‘cuts’ a day on the kill floor on lines that process up to
4 COMPASSION OVER KILLING, U.S. Statistics for ‘Food Animals’ Slaughtered in
2003, available at (9.1 billion animals
killed in 2003 for food, not including aquatic animals or animals who died in transit
or before slaughter, which would increase the total number killed by 100 million).
5 Polly Walker & Robert S. Lawrence, Book Review: American Meat: A Threat to
Your Health and to the Environment, 4 YALE J. HEALTH POLICY L. & ETHICS 173,
175 (2004).
6 Id.
7 Id.
8 HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, Blood, Sweat, and Fear: Workers’ Rights in U.S. Meat
and Poultry Plants, Jan. 2005, available at
9 BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2006,
available at
10 See, e.g., Michael Riley, Woes at Swift Blamed on Pace: Speed Valued Above All
Else, Workers Say, DENVER POST, Nov. 26, 2002, A-1 (“When Raul Jimenez comes
off an eight-hour shift at Swift & Co.’s Greeley slaughterhouse, he often can barely
move, exhausted from working on a line that turns live animals into processed meat
as fast as six times a minute. . . . [S]everal workers said that even with the plant’s
recent [feces contamination] problems, supervisors apply constant pressure to keep
the line moving. Workers described a world in which they are driven, sometimes
insulted and humiliated, to keep the plant’s production up. ‘From the time you enter,
you’re told that if the plant stops 10 minutes, the company will lose I don’t know
how many millions of dollars,’ said Maria Lilia Almaraz, who earns $10.60 an hour
cutting bones from cuts of meat with a razor-sharp blade. ‘It’s always “faster,
faster.”’. . . Slaughterhouse work . . . may be among the toughest in America. Federal
accident statistics show that a meatpacking plant is 3 times more dangerous than the
average construction site.”).
300 cattle per hour. Some cutters are forced to make five cuts every fifteen
seconds.”11 This high speed has led to an increase in the meatpacking
industry’s already-high level of injuries; approximately 25% of meatpacking
employees are struck ill or injured every year.12 For example, Iowa records a
yearly average of 9.8 injuries or illnesses per hundred full-time employees.
The figure jumps to 16 per hundred full-time manufacturing employees, but a
whopping 51 meatpacking employees per hundred suffer illness or injury
every year.13
Common meatpacking injuries range from musculoskeletal injuries,
such as tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, and white finger, caused by rapid
repetitive motions,14 to life-threatening injuries, often caused by the deadly
combination of long hours, tiring work, and sharp knives designed to easily
slice through bone.15 Despite the seriousness of the common physical injuries
11 Bill Winders & David Nibert. Consuming the Surplus: Expanding ‘Meat’
Consumption and Animal Oppression, 24 INTL J. OF SOC. AND SOC. POLY. 76, 89
(2004) (quoting Jeremy Rifkin).
12 Id.; see also Michael S. Worrall, Meatpacking Safety: Is OSHA Enforcement
Adequate?, 9 DRAKE J. AGRIC. L. 299, 307 (2004). “[T]he meatpacking industry has
long had one of the highest injury rates of all U.S. industries.” Winders & Nibert,
supra note 6, at 89.
Agricultural work is also dangerous in other nations. See, e.g., David J.
Glasscock et al., Psychosocial Factors and Safety Behaviour as Predictors of
Accidental Work Injuries in Farming, 20 WORK & STRESS 173, 173 (2006)
(“Farming is one of the most hazardous occupations in terms of the incidence and
seriousness of accidental injury. . . . In Denmark, national statistics clearly indicate
the hazardous nature of farming. Agriculture heads the list of occupations with the
highest incidence of fatal accidents with 14.3 per 100,000 workers, twice the
incidence found for the construction industry, which is second on the list.”).
13 Worrall, supra note 7, at 307.
14 Id. “Meatpacking workers often engage in repetitive motions, such as cutting with
their knives every two to three seconds or approximately ten thousand cuts during an
eight-hour shift. One description of work in a poultry processing plant finds: ‘human
hands . . . must make the same knife or scissors cut to slit open carcasses from anus
to breast or trhe same twist of the hand to yank out viscera at a grueling pace, set by
a relentless conveyor belt and reinforced by circulating foremen, while workers are
standing in pools of water and grease in temperatures that range from freezing to
ninety-five degrees and being pelted by flying fat globules or dripping blood.’” Id. at
15 “[I]n a few severe cases . . . speedup may have led to death. In Nebraska, an
immigrant worker at a meatpacking plant died two years ago after slicing open his
chest with a boning knife near the end of his shift. The United Food and Commercial
Workers International Union, which represented the worker, said excessive workload
contributed to the death.” Nancy Cleeland, Need for Speed Has Workers Seething,
L.A. TIMES. June 19, 2002, at A1. See also David Hendee, Authorities seek IBP
meeting: The Dakota County attorney isn’t pleased with how the meat-packer
handled the death of a plant worker, OMAHA WORLD HERALD, Nov. 2, 1999, at 9
(Manuel Ramos Topete, a fifty-six-year-old employee died from knife wound to the
heart at an IBP beef plant; “[I]t appears that Topete may have slipped and fallen on
his knife while working on the carcass line. The incident occurred about 10:35 p.m.
Topete was taken to Mercy Hospital in Sioux City by a private ambulance service
under contract with IBP. He arrived at 11:10 p.m. and was pronounced dead 32
minutes later. IBP managers did not contact local law enforcement agencies, and
they did not telephone 911 for emergency medical service.”).
and illnesses suffered by meatpacking employees, these safety issues
continue to be ignored by decision-makers and society at large.16
B. The misery of the animals
The inside of a typical slaughterhouse is a place of blood, pain, and
death. The animals who enter the slaughterhouse have typically had
miserable lives, born and raised indoors, without access to sunlight or fresh
air, and they often suffer injuries during their journey to the slaughterhouse.17
Once in the slaughterhouse, the frantic pace of production discourages
workers from taking the care necessary to ensure that the animals do not
suffer gruesome deaths.18
Legislative attempts to regulate the amount of pain suffered by
animals during their slaughter have gone largely unenforced.19 The Humane
Slaughter Act, passed in 1960, imposes light restrictions on the treatment of
farmed animals, and the animal industries are adept at avoiding even these
minor inconveniences.20 The industry has also been successful in tanking
16 John J. McGlone, Farm Animal Welfare in the Context of Other Society Issues:
Toward Sustainable Systems, 72 LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION SCIENCE 75, 79 (2001)
(“Worker health and safety is the least discussed society issue at this time . . . .”).
17 See, e.g., Winders & Nibert, supra note 6, at 85 (“Those chickens that survive the
horrors of the battery cage will experience gruesome deaths in slaughterhouses when
their productivity as egg-laying machines declines. The rough handling they
experience, from battery cages to the ‘disassembly line,’ results in broken bones in
30 to 40 percent of those who make the trip.”).
18 Donna Mo, Comment: Unhappy Cows and Unfair Competition: Using Unfair
Competition Laws to Fight Farm Animal Abuse, 52 UCLA L. Rev. 1313, 1318
(2005) (“The cruelty inflicted on farm animals has increased over the last several
years. As Americans increase their consumption of meat and kill rates rise, the
‘performance [of slaughterhouse workers] doesn’t simply decline—it crashes.’
Because of the rise in standard kill rates, workers are pressured to kill more quickly
and therefore become sloppy. Such sloppiness results in ‘incidents in which live
animals [are] cut, skinned or scalded.’”).
19 “[T]he USDA is supposed to enforce the federal Humane Methods of Slaughter
Act. Enforcement, however, is practically nonexistent, because agricultural
departments and the meat industry are ‘closely allied.’ For instance, USDA
veterinarians and their supervisors ‘want to . . . go easy on the [slaughterhouses]
because they know that after they leave the USDA they can get . . . high-paying jobs
as . . . industry consultants.’ The USDA demonstrated its loyalty to the meat industry
when it opposed the Humane Slaughter Act. Enforcement of humane slaughter
statutes is so weak that workers are often unaware that such laws even exist or that
agricultural departments have authority to enforce humane treatment of farm
animals. Clearly, public ‘enforcement’ of existing humane slaughter statutes is not
enough.” Id. at 1318-19.
20 See Robyn Mallon, The Deplorable Standard of Living Faced by Farmed Animals
in America’s Meat Industry and How to Improve Conditions by Eliminating the
Corporate Farm, 9 MICH. ST. J. MED. & L. 389, 401 (2005) (“One of the [worst]
crimes committed by CAFOs is their blatant disregard of animal welfare. Their
flippant attitude toward the suffering of animals imprisoned in their industrialized
assembly line is astonishing, and slaughterhouses frequently violate standing laws
such as the Humane Slaughter Act. The law is violated due to the traditional
corporate attitude of wanting to maximize profit and minimize expenses. Profit is
maximized by increasing output and therefore line speeds are so high that workers do
not have time to properly stun an animal before it is eviscerated as the HSA
additional federal legislation that would have placed new regulations on the
slaughterhouses’ treatment of animals, thus allowing more animal suffering
to continue.21 In addition, state anti-cruelty statutes tend to focus specifically
on individualized cruel conduct against animals, exempting the animal
industry from the restrictions.22
Thus, the under-regulation of the animal industry provides a green
light for legalized (or ignored) animal cruelty. While the average American
will never see the inside of a slaughterhouse and may be able to eat a
hamburger without confronting the pain and terror of a beef cow’s final
moments, thousands of slaughterhouse workers across the country face that
troubling predicament every day, creating an employment situation ripe for
psychological problems.
A. Psychological trauma inflicted on employees
The animals killed in American slaughterhouses do not experience a
painless death, and the slaughterhouse workers watch—and are implicated
in—the gruesome deaths of thousands of animals every week. “The ghastly
treatment of other animals in slaughterhouses in the United States ranges
from brutal prodding and handling to the skinning and boiling of fully
conscious individuals.”23 Such violations of the Humane Slaughter Act, as
noted above, are common, and, in particular, chickens are not covered by
even the meager restrictions of the HSA. Poultry slaughterhouses thus are
home to horrific tales of cruelty. “In many cases, chickens are ‘conscious[]
and breathing not only as they move toward the knife but, afterward, upon
mandates. Also, the USDA, who is in charge of enforcing the HSA, spends little time
enforcing the Act and if it attempts to, its workers are chastised by the CAFO
owner.”). See also Winders & Nibert, supra note 6, at 88 (“Humane treatment—an
oxymoron when individuals are sent to be killed—is at a minimum in day-to-day
slaughterhouse operations. Although the United States passed a Humane Slaughter
Act in 1960, the regulations are minimal, and the only enforcement mechanism
attached was the ability of inspectors to stop the infamous ‘disassembly line’ until a
problem is corrected. Inspectors who attempt to use even this feeble enforcement
tool frequently are harassed by slaughterhouse managers and negatively sanctioned
by the superiors at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”).
21 See, e.g., Nicole Fox, Note and Comment: The Inadequate Protection of Animals
Against Cruel Animal Husbandry Practices under United States Law, 17 WHITTIER
L. REV. 145, 180 (1995) (“The Downed Animal Protection Act of 1993 was designed
to amend the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921. . . . The Downed Animal Act was
designed to prevent the suffering of animals who have broken bones or are ill. Often
these animals fall during transport or while walking into the stockyard. These
animals are trampled over by other animals or are prodded or dragged by stock-yard
22 See, e.g., Amy Mosel, Comment: What About Wilbur? Proposing a Federal
Statute to Provide Minimum Humane Living Conditions for Farm Animals Raised for
Food Production, 27 DAYTON L. REV. 133, 180 (2001) (“State [animal welfare]
statutes are generally aimed at prohibiting intentional conduct against animals such
as torture, beating and mutilation.”).
23 Winders & Nibert, supra note 6, at 88.
entering the scald tank,” where they are boiled alive.24 A People for the
Ethical Treatment of Animals representative discussed this problem of
cruelty to chickens at a Tyson Foods annual shareholder meeting:
Federal laws regarding the humane slaughter of animals
excludes chickens entirely so abuses that would be illegal if
cows or pigs were the victims are the norm. They happen to
every single chicken slaughtered at Tyson. Now because
consumers consider animal welfare when they decide which
products to buy any abuse that happens in our plant can
seriously damage our company such as the abuse that was
uncovered in Tyson’s Heflin, Alabama plant earlier this
year. There an undercover investigator found birds entirely
mutilated by throat-cutting machines that didn’t work
properly. One bird had her skin torn entirely off her chest.
Now workers were instructed to rip the heads off of birds
who had missed the throat-cutting machines and our
investigator was told not to stop the line for missed birds.
Plant employees were seen throwing dying birds around just
for fun. Now, PETA’s investigator also witnessed numerous
birds that were scalded alive in the feather removal tank
while they were still conscious and able to feel pain. Now,
plant managers told him that that was an acceptable practice
for 40 animals per shift, to be scalded alive that is, and no
one was reprimanded for more than 40 birds when they
suffered this fate during any one given shift.25
This account invites a connection between the cruel nature of the
slaughterhouse industry and the cruel actions of the slaughterhouse
workers—having been instructed by their supervisors to rip off birds’ heads,
the workers feel no remorse in tossing around dying birds “just for fun.”
In this country, we have a common understanding that taking
pleasure in the cruel death of a helpless animal is an antisocial and
potentially psychotic characteristic.26 The countless stories of
slaughterhouse employees inflicting pain on animals “just for fun” indicate
that the nature of the slaughterhouse work may have caused psychological
damage to the employees, because the employees’ actions certainly rise to
24 Fox, supra note 18, at 153.
25 Tyson Foods Annual Shareholder Meeting - Final, Fair Disclosure Wire, Feb. 3,
26 During the national outrage when a Kansas sixth-grader stabbed a mother duck
and her two ducklings to death in 2007, many professionals indicated that the child
would require substantial mental health testing and counseling. See, e.g., Wichita
Sixth-Grader Admits to Stabbing Ducks with Pencil, Associated Press, May 4, 2007,
available at
admits-stabbing-ducks-pencil (quoting school district mental health crisis team
coordinator, “We know that animal cruelty is a very serious, significant behavior.
We will be following up with the parents to be very clear that they seek outside
mental health care for this child.”).
the level of abnormal cruelty that would cause concern among the general
By studying the nature of psychological trauma, analyzing specific
psychological mechanisms that would contribute to slaughterhouse workers’
trauma, and reviewing anecdotal evidence of slaughterhouse trauma, the
remainder of this section will demonstrate that slaughterhouse workers likely
suffer serious psychological trauma in their workplace.
B. Two frameworks for the nature of the psychological
1. Perpetration-Induced Traumatic Stress
One extensive study suggests the form of psychological damage
suffered by slaughterhouse workers. In Perpetration-Induced Traumatic
Stress: The Psychological Consequences of Killing, Rachel M. MacNair
describes Perpetration-Induced Traumatic Stress (“PITS”) as a form of post-
traumatic stress disorder that results “from situations that would be traumatic
if someone were a victim, but situations for which the person in question was
a causal participant,” i.e., where the person suffering from PTSD has those
symptoms because he was involved in creating the traumatic situation.28
MacNair describes the symptoms as including drug and alcohol abuse,
anxiety, panic, depression, increased paranoia, a sense of disintegration,
dissociation or amnesia, which are incorporated into the “psychological
consequences” of the act of killing.29
MacNair’s study focuses mainly on the trauma experienced by, for
example, combat veterans, executioners, and Nazis. However, MacNair cites
slaughterhouse workers as another sector of the population that may be
susceptible to PITS and whose situation deserves a close study of the
prevalence of PITS among the workers.30
The anecdotal literature on slaughterhouse workers offers ample
evidence of PITS symptoms. For example, recurring dreams regarding the
violent act are a symptom of PITS.31 Virgil Butler recalled having
nightmares of chickens and reported a fellow worker being “hauled off to the
mental hospital” for severe recurring dreams.32 The substance abuse that is
symptomatic of PITS is also prevalent among slaughterhouse workers. This
adverse psychological impact is also evidenced by the increased usage of
alcohol and drugs among slaughterhouse workers. One former hog-sticker
(an employee who stabs the hogs to cause them to bleed to death) stated that
“[a] lot of [the slaughterhouse hog killers] have problems with alcohol. They
have to drink, they have no other way of dealing with killing live, kicking
27 See infra fns. 25-28 and accompanying text. See also generally GAIL EISNITZ,
SLAUGHTERHOUSE (Prometheus Books 2007) (1997).
29 Id. MacNair suggests that this disorder indicates that “the human mind, contrary to
certain political ideologies, is not well suited for killing.” Id. at 170.
30 Id. at 88.
31 Id.
32 The Cyberactivist, Inside the Mind of a Killer, (Aug. 31,
animals all day long. If you stop and think about it, you’re killing several
thousand beings a day.”33
2. Doubling
One form of the PITS phenomenon is discussed in The Nazi Doctors,
which explains the psychological phenomenon of “doubling” that occurred
among the Nazi doctors in concentration camps. “Doubling” is “the division
of the self into two functioning wholes, so that a part-self acts as an entire
self. An Auschwitz doctor could, through doubling, not only kill and
contribute to killing but organize silently, on behalf of that evil project, an
entire self-structure (or self-process) encompassing virtually all aspects of his
behavior.”34 In other words, as the doctor violated his natural morals to carry
out his functions in the concentration camps, the doctor developed two
“selves”—a new self, performing the evil acts and implicated in the crime,
and another self, the doctor’s prior self, which he saw as the same husband,
father, son, that he had been before the concentration camp began.35
While slaughterhouse work is not the same as that of a Nazi doctor,
the dissociation from a morally dubious employment creates similar effects.
A former hog slaughterhouse worker stated,
The worst thing, worse than the physical danger, is the
emotional toll. If you work in the stick pit [where the hogs
are killed] for any period of time, you develop an attitude
that lets you kill things but doesn’t let you care. 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.36
This ex-slaughterhouse worker describes the “doubling”
psychological mechanism identified by Lifton among the Nazi doctors. The
worker’s natural self identifies with the pig and recognizes it as an animal
worthy of affection and care, but the worker’s other self—the self developed
to work in the slaughterhouse—kills the pig, literally unable to care about the
animal. Just as the “doubling” phenomenon indicated the serious
psychological toll taken on the Nazi doctors, the same phenomenon
evidences the psychological effect inflicted on the slaughterhouse workers.
C. Specific psychological mechanisms creating trauma
The scientific literature contains few academic studies of the
psychological damage inflicted on slaughterhouse employees. However, a
survey of some relevant publications indicates that slaughterhouse work is
very likely to have a serious, negative psychological impact on the
33 EISNITZ, supra note 26, at 87-88.
34 ROBERT JAY LIFTON, THE NAZI DOCTORS 418 (Basic Books 2000) (1986).
35 Id. at 418-19.
36 EISNITZ, supra note 24, at 87.
One study indicated that “farm animals are not considered by
farmers purely as working tools, even by stockpersons engaged in a power-
based relationship with animals. The positive or negative affective
involvement of farmers in their animals has a great influence on the care
relationship toward them, and consequently on animal welfare.”37 In other
words, farmers face a disconnect between their natural identification with
animals as living beings and their treatment of animals as a means to an end.
In addition, the worker’s emotional response to the animal affects the care
with which the worker treats the animal; if the worker develops a disdain for
the animals in response to that disconnect, he is more likely to treat them
cruelly. The study also found that the characteristic of empathy was difficult
to link with the character of a “good stockperson” because the typical animal
production industry will “lead [a person who empathizes with the animals] to
act at work quite differently from the way they would like to act. Ultimately,
the mental health of the person may be affected.”38 Thus, people who
naturally empathize with the animals are likely to have a difficult time with
animal industry work, since the nature of the work requires the worker to
treat the animal not as a living being with individual worth, but as another
widget, a means to an end.
The intensive, production-focused nature of factory farming has led
workers to suppress their “spontaneous empathy” for the animals, and this
study suggests that male workers are affected more strongly by this
phenomenon of empathy suppression.39 “Because compassion is not an
attitude compatible with the requirements of economic competition and
maleness, men may have suffered more than women in this repression of
affect and learned to hide their feelings.”40 This concern is particularly
important for the U.S. animal industry, since a vast majority of U.S.
slaughterhouse workers are male.41
Another study noted that farmers (people who work in the animal
agricultural industry) have low empathy and identification with the animals
“that have instrumental significance for them.”42 The farmers’ empathy and
identification with these animals is significantly lower than the empathy and
identification expressed by the general population. Thus, the animal industry
employment tends to lower the employees’ ability to empathize and identify
with the pain suffered by the animals whose lives (and deaths) they are
This lowered ability to empathize with weaker creatures may cause
the slaughterhouse workers to be more likely to commit violent crimes,
37 Jocelyne Porcher et al., Affective Components of the Human-Animal Relationship
in Animal Husbandry: Development and Validation of a Questionnaire, 95 PSYCHOL.
REP. 275, 286 (2004).
38 Id.
39 Id. at 287.
40 Id.
41 In 2003, only 26.6% of meat, poultry, and fish possessing workers in the US were
female. See Amy J. Fitzgerald, Spill-Over from ‘The Jungle’ into the Larger
Community: Slaughterhouses and Increased Crime Rates (2006) (unpublished Ph.D.
dissertation, Michigan State University) (on file with author) 203.
42 Adelma M. Hills, The Motivational Bases of Attitudes Towards Animals, 1
SOCIETY AND ANIMALS 111, 120 (1997).
particularly against women and children. The connection between traditional
animal abuse and domestic abuse has long been documented, but the link
between institutionalized animal abuse and other violent tendencies has not
received as much academic attention.43 However, in her recent sociology
dissertation, Amy J. Fitzgerald found that counties with slaughterhouses have
higher arrest levels for sex offenses and more frequent reports of murder,
rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, motor vehicle theft, and
arson.44 This study also found that, compared with other industries, the
slaughterhouse industry has a more significant effect on community crime
rates.45 The study concludes that the slaughterhouse industry’s effect on its
employees and the communities are dissimilar and more deleterious than the
effects of other “manufacturing” industries, indicating that the differences are
likely to be located in the particularized psychological effect of the
slaughterhouse work on the employees.46
Some courts have found the prior slaughterhouse employment of
defendants to be relevant information in criminal trials. In the two most
recent cases, the murders at issue were performed in a manner similar to the
way in which an animal at the defendant’s former place of employment
would be slaughtered, making the information particularly relevant.47
43 See, e.g., Frank R. Ascione, et al, Animal Welfare and Domestic Violence (1997),
available at (finding that
54% of battered women in shelters reported harm to pets by an abusive domestic
partner, compared with 3.5% of women in the general population).
44 Fitzgerald, supra note 32, at 186.
45 Id. at 187. Anecdotal evidence of increased crime among slaughterhouse workers
is ample. See EISNITZ, supra note 24, at 87 (“Every sticker [i.e., hog killer] I know
carries a gun, and every one of them would shoot you. Most stickers I know have
been arrested for assault.”).
46 Fitzgerald, supra note 32, at 206.
47 See Hannon v. State, 941 So.2d 1109, 1142-43 (Fla. 2006) (“First, Hannon asserts
that the following ‘slaughterhouse’ arguments made by the State during the guilt
phase closing argument were not supported by any factual basis: ‘If I had to think of
a name for this case, something to summarize what this case is all about, the name I
would choose would be "The Slaughterhouse. The Slaughterhouse." Because on
January 10, 1991, a man sitting in this very courtroom, turned the home of Brandon
Snider and Robbie Carter into a slaughterhouse. . . . Hannon worked at a
slaughterhouse. Hannon had access to knives. He had access to knives. He used
knives in the past to kill. He testified on the stand that he killed before, killed
animals before.’ However, the record demonstrates that the State's ‘slaughterhouse’
arguments were supported by the evidence. Specifically, John Ring testified at trial
that Hannon stated the following: ‘[Hannon] said that the cops were trying to pin a
murder on him, that they had—they wanted to pin him because he had worked in a
slaughterhouse and he was cutting throats for a living, because that made him a
violent person, that they were trying to pin that on him and that he had shot this guy
six times.’ Moreover, at trial Hannon testified that he worked in a slaughterhouse in
Okeechobee slaughtering cows, and in Brooksville slaughtering pigs and hogs.
Hannon described that he would shock the animals, make an incision in them, and
hang them upside down to bleed them. Hannon testified in detail with regard to what
occurred on certain days at the slaughterhouse, including that Mondays and
Wednesdays were slaughter days when they killed the hogs. Hannon described the
different functions related to cutting, specifically that if you were right-handed you
would have the knife in your right hand and grab the meat with your left hand.
Hannon also testified that he had taken a pork loin to Robbie Carter's house, boned it
However, based on the use of the information in the trial, it is clear that the
slaughterhouse occupation of the defendants was seen as an occupation that
enhanced a person’s tendency to commit—or at least to be comfortable
with—violent acts.48
Furthermore, the slaughterhouse work violates the natural tendency
of a person to avoid the direct killing of an animal. One study found that 85%
of the meat-eating participants stated that they could not kill an animal to
obtain meat.49 This overwhelmingly common aversion to killing suggests
that the slaughterhouse employment causes a majority of the employees to
violate their natural preference against killing. By habitually violating one’s
natural preference against killing, the worker very likely is adversely
psychologically impacted.
D. Anecdotal evidence of psychological impact of
slaughterhouse work
One fascinating instance of a slaughterhouse worker who explicitly
connected the violent nature of the work with the resulting psychological
out, and cut some pork chops. Hannon further testified that during the time January
14 through 16, he had attempted to secure work with Richardson at the
slaughterhouse but could not because business was slow. Based upon our review of
the record, we determine that there was testimony regarding Hannon's work in the
slaughterhouse to support the State's analogy. Accordingly, the trial court's rejection
of this claim was proper.”); see also People v. Griffin, 93 P.3d 344, 373-74 (Cal.
2004) (allowing admission of defendant’s work at a slaughterhouse; “Prior to the
penalty phase retrial, the People notified defendant that they intended to introduce
evidence, not offered at the initial trial, of defendant's employment at the Palace
Meat Company, a slaughterhouse, to establish the circumstances of the murder and
specifically to prove that defendant slaughtered Kelly like an animal would be
slaughtered. . . . As pertinent here, Dr. Nelson testified to the effect that the person
who murdered Kelly rendered her unconscious by strangulation, stabbed her neck
with a very sharp knife and then slashed her throat severing the carotid artery and
causing exsanguination, and finally after death slashed the body in four strokes from
the chest through the belly and the pubic area toward the buttocks, opening the body
cavity. After hearing the testimony of Dr. Nelson, the trial court ruled evidence of
defendant's employment at the Palace Meat Company admissible, determining
expressly that it was not unduly prejudicial and impliedly that it was relevant. In
accordance with the trial court's ruling, the People, in their case in aggravation,
called Kennedy as a witness. In pertinent part, Kennedy testified he was the owner of
the Palace Meat Company. In the mid-1970's, Palace slaughtered sheep on an open
kill-floor by rendering each animal unconscious with an electrical stun, stabbing its
neck with a knife and then slashing its throat in order to sever the jugular vein and
cause exsanguination, and finally after death slashing the body from the area of the
hips where the legs join through the belly and the brisket toward the neck, opening
the body cavity. In the mid-1970's, Palace employed defendant as a general helper,
doing cleanup and similar chores. Although defendant did not himself slaughter
sheep, he had the opportunity to observe the process.”)
48 See id.
49 Melanie Joy, Psychic Numbing and Meat Consumption: The Psychology of
Carnism (Dec. 2002) (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, Saybrook Graduate School)
(on file with author) 137. Stated one participant, in language reminiscent of Virgil
Butler’s commentary, “I don’t have to look at the cow’s eyes while they’re
strangling it or whatever they do to a cow—shoot it? I can eat it, but I don’t see
myself actually killing anything.” Id.
damage was the late Virgil Butler, a Tyson slaughterhouse worker who
became an animal rights activist. After Butler described slaughterhouse
abuses at a PETA news conference, Butler’s story was featured on several
animal rights and animal welfare websites, eliciting hundreds of emails
thanking him for, as one writer put it, ‘being a voice for the
animals.’ Amazed, emboldened, Butler began to think of
himself as more than an assembly-line killer. He gave up
fried ham and his pork rinds in favor of a vegan diet. When
memories of the kill floor crowded his thoughts, he talked
through them, instead of pushing them aside. For the first
time, he told [his fiancée] what he had done those nine years
at the slaughterhouse. And how it felt. He spent months
haltingly unrolling his memories. Then, in August, inspired
by soldiers’ blogs from Iraq, he launched the online diary.50
On his blog,, Butler described the
brutality and mental anguish of the slaughterhouse work.51 Butler writes of a
night working on the kill line: “[T]he chickens are panicking. Many of them
are squawking loudly, some are just sitting there trembling. Sometimes you
catch one looking up at you, eye to eye, and you know it's terrified. . . . No
one can convince me that that chicken did not know what was about to
happen.”52 In this post and other writings on his blog, Butler provided a
detailed and insightful account of the psychological effects of slaughterhouse
work on its employees.
This incident-based recognition that the brutality experienced by the
animals in slaughterhouses has a psychological impact on the slaughterhouse
workers has been echoed in other studies of slaughterhouse employment. In
her 1997 book Slaughterhouse, Gail Eisnitz interviewed dozens of
slaughterhouse workers regarding their time in the workplace. One worker at
Morrell, a hog slaughterhouse, described his experiences:
50 Stephanie Simon, A Killing Floor Chronicle: A Down-and-Out Former Poultry
Worker’s Online Memoirs of His Gruesome Job Have Electrified Animal-Rights
Activists Worldwide, L.A. TIMES, Dec. 8, 2003, at A-1.
51 For example, Butler described the workers’ “practical joke” of tying a chicken’s
legs in a knot. “I have picked up these birds before and untied their legs. The bones
inside their legs felt like a sack of broken glass. They would usually be bleeding in
several places where the bones would break through the skin. I can't explain to you
how it made me feel to see something like that.” The Cyberactivist, Tyson Torture
Tactics - Knots of Fun, /09/tyson-torture-
tactics-knots-of-fun.html (Sept. 25, 2003). Butler also described the workers’
methods of “culling the runts,” which was officially done by throwing the too-small,
still-living chickens into dumpsters, but which was also accomplished by throwing
the chicken through the exhaust fan (“The exhaust fan would pulverize it and sling it
back as a mush into the person's face who was standing directly below it.”); by
throwing the chicken against the wall as hard as possible; and by pulling off the
chicken’s head (“they just wanted to watch it flop [around on the ground] and sling
blood everywhere.”). The Cyberactivist., Tyson Torture Tactics - Culling the Runts,
(Sept. 27, 2003).
52The Cyberactivist, A Night in Tyson’s Hell,
2003_09_01_archive. html (Sept. 23, 2003).
Another time, there was a live hog in the pit. It hadn’t done
anything wrong, wasn’t even running around the pit. It was
just alive. I took a three-foot chunk of pipe—two-inch
diameter pipe—and I literally beat that hog to death.
Couldn’t have been a two-inch piece of solid bone left in its
head. . . . It was like I started hitting the hog and I couldn’t
stop. And when I finally did stop, I’d expended all this
energy and frustration, and I’m thinking, what in God’s
sweet name did I do? . . . People go into Morrell expecting
respect and good working conditions. They come out with
carpal tunnel, tendonitis, alcoholism, you name it, because
they’re under incredible pressure and they’re expected to
perform under intolerable conditions. Or they develop a
sadistic sense of reality.53
While the connection between the anecdotal evidence of trauma and
the psychological analyses of related forms of trauma seems clear, studies
should be undertaken to analyze directly the relationship between
psychological trauma and slaughterhouse work. However, given the horrific
nature of the slaughterhouse work and its inevitable psychological impact on
workers, the legal community should undertake the task of creating a system
that compensates the employees for their psychological harm and that
prevents the harm from occurring. That system is the subject of the next
A. OSHA regulations and oversight
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is
charged with the responsibility of protecting American workers from
workplace hazards. While OSHA has not yet systematically addressed the
problem of psychological problems in the workplace, OSHA’s legislative
mandate would permit them to tackle this issue through new regulations.54
Some scholars have suggested that the lack of psychological regulation is due
to the agency’s prioritizing of more traditional, physical health issues and the
“perceived exigency” of those problems.55
OSHA’s current deterrence system consists mainly of conducting
inspections of workplaces for safety violations and imposing fines on
53 EISNITZ, supra note 24, at 93-94.
54 29 U.S.C. § 651 (stating Congress’ intent that OSHA “provid[e] for research in the
field of occupational safety and health, including the psychological factors
involved”). See also 29 U.S.C. § 669(a)(1) (“The Secretary of Health, Education, and
Welfare . . . shall conduct (directory or by grants or contracts) research, experiments,
and demonstrations relating to occupational safety and health, including studies of
psychological factors involved, and relating to innovative methods, techniques, and
approaches for dealing with occupational safety and health problems.”).
55 See, e.g., Robert A. Bohrer, Fear and Trembling in the Twentieth Century:
Technological Risk, Uncertainty, and Emotional Distress, 1984 WIS. L. REV. 83, 120
employers that violate OSHA safety regulations. OSHA should develop a
system of regulations for psychological safety in the slaughterhouse
workplace, conduct inspections for psychological safety violations, and
impose fines for violating those regulations. Just as OSHA inspectors can
pinpoint workplaces that are hazardous to an employee’s physical safety,
OSHA inspectors could use their inspections to pinpoint workplaces that are
hazardous to psychological safety. For example, OSHA regulations could
mandate that the managers prevent employees from treating the animals in an
inhumane or unusually cruel manner. OSHA inspectors could make
unannounced visits to slaughterhouses and inspect the premises for evidence
of unusual cruelty that tends to cause psychological harm. In addition,
whistleblowers could inform OSHA of incidents of unusual cruelty, and
OSHA could investigate the claims and impose fines on the employers as
necessary. This system would deter the employers from tolerating cruel
behavior through financial dis-incentives.
However, given the years-long, politicized debate over ergonomics
regulations, it seems more likely that the agency’s refusal to face the realities
of psychological harm in the workplace is a political or policy-based choice
of an agency reluctant to anger the constituents and donors of Congress and
the executive branch, the decision-makers who fund the agency.56
Additionally, OSHA’s dismal track record of protecting the physical
well-being of slaughterhouse workers—and workers in general—further
discourages reliance on the agency for protection against serious
psychological harm. For example, in 1983, a beef plant worker was killed by
toxic fumes while cleaning a blood-collection tank. The plant was fined $960
and was required to develop a new cleaning method, and OSHA made one
follow-up safety inspection to observe this new method. Eight years later,
three workers were killed while cleaning the same tank. The company was
then fined $1.5 million.57 OSHA has proved to be a weak advocate and an
ineffective enforcement mechanism for protecting the wellbeing of American
workers, and slaughterhouse employees should not rely on OSHA
developing new regulations to protect them from psychological harm.58
B. Worker’s compensation for psychological harm
Worker’s compensation provides a somewhat more promising legal
scheme for redressing the psychological harm of slaughterhouse work.
Worker’s compensation claims have historically been accepted in numerous
56 See, e.g., Katherine Torres, After the Storm: Weighing in on the OSHA Ergonomics
Guidelines, OCCUPATIONAL HAZARDS (June 9, 2006) available at
57 Worrall, supra note 7, at 315.
58 See Mike Casey, OSHA: Discounted Lives, Kansas City Star, Dec. 11, 2005,
available at
city/business/13379101.htm (reporting that in 80 fatal or injury-producing accidents
in the Kansas City area, half the employers paid fines of $3,000 or less). See also
ENFORCEMENT (ILR Press 1989) (describing the first-hand experiences of an OSHA
states for the compensation of non-physical injuries.59 Psychological harm
inflicted by slaughterhouse workplaces could be compensated through a
state’s worker’s compensation system. The state would create guidelines for
psychological injuries and conduct psychological examinations to determine
the presence and extent of claimed psychological harm. This system would
encourage employers to maintain psychologically healthy working
environments, and it would also provide a financial incentive for the state to
create regulations that prevented unusual cruelty to animals in
slaughterhouses. In addition, the system would provide monetary relief to
workers who suffer from ongoing, pervasive psychological problems due to
the violence of their workplace.
However, some courts have interpreted their states’ particular
worker’s compensation act to refuse the compensation of non-physical
harms.60 This state statutory scheme leaves the slaughterhouse workers
vulnerable to the political maneuvering of state legislators and their donors,
who may be tempted to revise worker’s compensation statutes that are
amenable to claims of psychological harm.
In addition, worker’s compensation claims that do address
psychological harm are primarily focused on the harm caused by a single,
unusual event, rather than on the trauma caused by routine, day-to-day tasks.
Most courts that do permit claims based on a series of stressful events require
the showing of “extraordinary stress [because] employers should not be
required to compensate their employees for disabilities that result from day-
to-day mental stresses and tensions which all employees must experience.”61
This unusual stress test would prove to be a serious hindrance to the
ability of slaughterhouse workers to recover for their psychological harm.
For example, in Pennsylvania, the courts have held that psychological harm
such as depression may be compensated only if there is “a finding either that
claimant’s work performance (as distinguished from the mere job
description) was unusually stressful for that kind of a job or a finding that an
59 See, e.g., Charon’s Case, 75 N.E.2d 511, 512 (Mass. 1947) (holding that the
Massachusetts Workmen’s Compensation Act does not “exclude an injury causally
connected with the employment merely because the injury was not occasioned by
physical impact or the application of some external violence to the body.”);
Montgomery v. St. Comp. Comm’r, 178 S.E. 425 (W.V. 1935) (affirming
compensation for worker who suffered shock and exhaustion after being lost in a
mine for seven days); Burlington Mills Corp. v. Hagood, 13 S.E.2d 291 (Va.1941)
(affirming compensation for worker frightened by electrical flash and suffering
fainting fits as a result).
60 See, e.g., Bekelski v. O.F. Neal Co., 4 N.W.2d 741 (Neb.1942) (finding that
Nebraska statute requires violence to physical structure of the body for compensation
and denying compensation to elevator operation for shock suffered after seeing a
passenger die); but see Bailey v. Am. Gen. Ins. Co., 279 S.W.2d 315 (Tex. 1955)
(allowing compensation to worker for anxiety caused by the collapse of a scaffold
when Texas statute defines injury as physical damage to physical structure of the
body; finding that damage to the nervous system is damage to the physical structure
when physical structure no longer works properly due to nervous system damage).
61 Anthony Michael Stiegler, Comment: Worker’s Compensation: Compensating
Claimants Who Suffer Psychological Disabilities Caused Solely by Job-Related
Mental Stress, 60 TUL. L. REV. 651, 658 (1986).
unusual event occurred making the job more stressful than it had been.”62
This comparative method of determining compensation-worthy claims would
permit an entire industry to inflict psychological harm on all its workers: as
long as the psychological stress and trauma are evenly distributed, no single
worker will suffer an “unusual stress” that would be compensated by
worker’s compensation.63 For example, as long as a hog-sticker—whose job
will inevitably be bloody, gory, and immediately violent—does not have an
unusually traumatic hog-sticking job, these worker’s compensation plans
would not recognize the harm as compensable under the system.
Under the worker’s compensation regime, it is possible that, in states
with a worker’s compensation statute amenable to psychological damage
claims, some slaughterhouse workers may be able to recover for emotional
damage caused by unusual slaughter-related stressors. Perhaps a worker
suffering psychological trauma from a particularly gruesome incident could
recover for that psychological damage. However, if those incidents are
viewed as common and just “part of the job description,” the worker would
be unlikely to recover for that psychological trauma. In addition, a worker
who never saw an “unusual” incident of cruelty but who spent years slitting
the throats of chickens or stabbing hogs would not be able to recover for the
psychological damage caused by that long career in slaughter.
Clearly, worker’s compensation, while it may compensate for the
most traumatic experiences of the most unlucky slaughterhouse worker, will
not be the cure-all for slaughterhouse workers suffering psychological harm
from their years surrounded by blood and death.
C. Expansion of the ultrahazardous activity tort doctrine
In states where psychological damage is not covered by worker’s
compensation, a tort action against a slaughterhouse employer for emotional
distress may be possible. Particularly when the employer ignores the Humane
Slaughter Act or permits its employees to engage in the type of gruesome
antics described by Virgil Butler, a tort action may result in recovery because
the employer is not carrying out a slaughterhouse operation as contemplated
by the regulating authorities or as imagined by the general public, but instead
is running a slaughter operation that is obviously based on gaining the most
profits with the least possible consideration for employee mental and
emotional well-being.
While more common tort claims such as negligent infliction of
emotional distress or intentional infliction of emotional distress may be the
most obvious options for a tort action, an expansion of the ultrahazardous
activity tort doctrine would provide a powerful mechanism for deterrence
62 City of Scranton v. Workmen’s Comp. App. Bd., 583 A.2d 852 (Pa. Commw.
Court 1990) (holding that the widow of a policeman who became depressed and
committed suicide after investigation of a serial killer could recover worker’s
compensation because prior to the serial murders, the city had not faced a significant
number of murders).
63 See, e.g., Lee Anne Neumann, Comment: Worker’s Compensation and High Stress
Occupations: Application of Wisconsin’s Unusual Stress Test to Law Enforcement
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, 77 MARQ. L. REV. 147, 176 (1993) (suggesting an
“unusual stress test” for worker’s compensation claims in which the claimaint’s
work-related stress is compared with the stress faced by other workers in a similar
and compensation for psychological harm inflicted through slaughterhouse
work. The Restatement (2d) of Torts establishes six factors to be
considered when determining whether an activity is ultrahazardous. Those
factors are "(a) existence of a high degree of risk of some harm to the person,
land or chattels of others; (b) likelihood that the harm that results from it will
be great; (c) inability to eliminate the risk by the exercise of reasonable care;
(d) extent to which the activity is not a matter of common usage; (e)
inappropriateness of the activity to the place where it is carried on; and (f)
extent to which its value to the community is outweighed by its dangerous
attributes." 64
These factors indicate that maintaining a typical slaughterhouse
should be considered an ultrahazardous activity for psychological well-being,
and employers should be liable for psychological damage caused by the
work. First, the evidence of psychological damage discussed above shows
the “high degree of risk” that slaughterhouse work inflicts on the employees.
Second, while more scientific studies are needed to definitively prove this
point, the evidence also indicates that the psychological damage will be
significant. Third, the risk of psychological harm cannot be eliminated by
reasonable care. As the workers’ statements indicated, while the unusual acts
of cruelty could be eliminated, the mere act of killing hundreds of animals
per day will create the risk of psychological harm. Fourth, the slaughter of
animals is not a “matter of common usage.” Instead, the slaughter of animals
is done nearly exclusively by the employees of slaughterhouses. Fifth, the
harm inflicted by the activity of slaughtering outweighs the benefits to
society. The production of meat has little, if any, net benefit to society, since
massive meat production—and the resulting predominately cheap, unhealthy
food—has greatly contributed to the public health crisis in this country and
other developed countries,65 and large-scale meat production is also a major
factor in the climate change crisis.66 Thus, the psychological risk to
slaughterhouse employees fits four, and possibly five, of the six factors used
in determining an ultrahazardous activity. When coupled with the risk of
physical harm, discussed infra in section II, the maintenance of
slaughterhouse operations presents serious hazards that should persuade a
court to add slaughterhouse operations to the ranks of ultrahazardous
By labeling the slaughterhouse work as an ultrahazardous activity, a
court would guarantee that the employers would take all precaution
64 Rest.2d Torts, § 520.
65 See, e.g., Timothy Key and Gwyneth Davey, “Prevalence of obesity is low in
people who do not eat meat,” BMJ 1996;313:816-817,; Christian Nordqvist,
“Vegetarians Stay Slim, Meat-eaters Get Fat,” Medical NewsToday, Mar. 14, 2006,
66 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, “Livestock a major
threat to environment: Remedies desperately needed,” FAONewsroom, Nov. 29,
2006,; FOOD AND
Environmental Issues and Options, Nov. 2006,
necessary to reduce the psychological damage inflicted on employees, since
the ultrahazardous activity doctrine is a strict liability standard. In addition,
this doctrine would better ensure that the real cost of meat production is
incorporated into the employer’s production costs, rather than being absorbed
by an uncompensated employee.
The mental and emotional harm suffered by slaughterhouse workers
has long been ignored by the legal regimes that compensate workers for
workplace injuries. However, in light of the growing literature documenting
the serious mental and emotional impacts of slaughterhouse work, the legal
system must rise to the challenge of protecting slaughterhouse employees.
Direct compensation for specific harms, as discussed in this article, is one
way of addressing the problem. However, supplementary safeguards to
protect against cruelty against animals in the slaughterhouse and to avoid the
dramatic and horrifying incidents, as described by Virgil Butler and other
slaughterhouse employees, would be useful in lowering the mental and
emotional damage suffered by the workers. An application of the
ultrahazardous activity doctrine to the slaughterhouse employment would
best ensure that employers provide adequate safeguards to reduce the cruelty
inherent in slaughterhouse work.
In addition, the general public can express its disapproval of the
current slaughterhouse conditions by reducing its consumption of the
products of the slaughterhouse—meat, eggs, and dairy products.67 By
signaling to the slaughterhouse industry that the current conditions suffered
by the workers and by the animals are unacceptable, the general public can
use its most powerful weapon—the dollar—to help change the policies of the
slaughterhouse industry. The social effects of slaughterhouse product
consumption are harmful and far-reaching, and the legal regime and the
general public must act to reduce those deleterious effects on society.
67 Because “spent hens,” or hens whose egg production capacity has fallen below
acceptable levels, are slaughtered for low-grade chicken meat, egg production is
involved in the slaughterhouse system. See, e.g., Farm Sanctuary, Laying Hens, Similarly, dairy cows who have outlived
their usefulness are slaughtered for their meat, and, in addition, unwanted male
calves—little-known “by-products” of the dairy industry—are kept in veal pens and
killed for their flesh after a few months. See, e.g., People for the Ethical Treatment
of Animals, Cows Used for Their Milk,
... In addition to the prevalence of physical risks in meatpacking plants, there is also a significant psychological toll on workers as they "watch -and are implicated in -the gruesome deaths of thousands of animals every week" (Dillard 2008, p. 5). Some scholars (Dillard 2008;MacNair 2002) have even suggested slaughterhouse workers may experience Perpetration Induced Traumatic Stress (PITS) -a form of PSTD found in combat veterans, law enforcement, and executioners -through their role in the killing and disassembly of animals. ...
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The human labor and animal inputs required to manufacture meat products are kept physically and symbolically distanced from the consumer. Recently however, meatpacking plants received significant news media attention when they emerged as hotpots for COVID-19 — threatening workers’ health, requiring plants to slow production, and forcing farmers to euthanize livestock. In light of these disruptions, this research asks: how did news media frame the impact of COVID-19 on the meat industry, and to what extent is a process of defetishization observed? Examining a sample of 230 news articles from coverage of US meatpacking plants and COVID-19 in 2020, I find that news media largely attributes the cause for the spread of COVID-19 in meatpacking plants to the history of exploitative working conditions and business practices of the meat industry. By contrast, the solutions offered to address these problems aim at alleviating the immediate obstacles posed by the pandemic and returning to, rather than challenging, the status quo. These short-run solutions for complex issues demonstrate the constraints in imagining alternatives to a problem rooted in capitalism. Furthermore, my analysis shows that animals are only made visible in the production process when their bodies become a waste product.
... Most stickers I know have been arrested for assault." 4 Similarly, a worker in South Africa spoke of perpetrating violence on intimates: "What I was having was just to hit. I need to hit, especially my girlfriend. ...
Slaughterhouse work is traumatizing. Workers experience posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, especially as dreams of perpetrating violence and as emotional numbing and detachment. Workers' increased likelihood of committing violence is demonstrated both anecdotally and quantitatively. This commentary on a case considers how clinicians should respond to workers' PTSD symptoms. Clinical interventions for trauma typically assume that the traumatic experiences are over, in the past-that is, not part of present, everyday work and life experiences of the trauma patient. This article suggests reasons why perpetration-induced traumatic stress should be understood as a continually present, in addition to being a post, traumatic stress disorder. Importantly, interventions for slaughterhouse workers must focus on cultivating their awareness of traumatization and its symptoms in real time. This article also describes the inadequacy of current research and practice for helping patients for whom retraumatization continues as part of their everyday work.
... O seu potencial destrutivo para os ecosistemas prende-se com três efeitos principais: as alterações climáticas devidoàs emissões produzidas pelo estrume dos animais e que provocam o aquecimento global e a acidificação e a eutrofização nos ecossistemas; o consumo de recursos -água e energia em todo o processo de produção; e a poluição generalizada do ambiente devidoà produção eà descarga de lixo (nomeadamente naágua), como gordura, estrume, sangue, conteúdo não digerido do estômago dos animais e substâncias de higienização (Djekic, 2015). Para não referir todo o conjunto de consequências negativas possíveis já identificadas para as pessoas e as comunidades humanas ao nível local, e indiretamente ao nível global: na saúde, como mostra por exemplo o aumento do número de casos de doença e morte provocados por agentes patogénicos presentes na carne devidoà proliferação de doenças nos animais como consequência da expansão desregulada da indústria da carne (Eisnitz, 2009); e impacto social, com o aumento da criminalidade nas regiões dos matadouros (Artz, Orazem, e Otto, 2007) eventualmente associada ao mal-estar psicológico implicado no trabalho do abate animal (Dillard, 2008) A vida curta dos animais abatidos para consumo humano, e cujos corpos são manipulados para servir os interesses lucrativos da indústria de produção de carne,é caracterizada pelo sofrimento e pela violência: a sobrelotação e o confinamento nos matadouros, que promovem as doenças e a morte precoce; mutilações dolorosas, incluindo a castração sem anestesia; a inseminação artificial comoúnica forma de reprodução; e a engenharia genética que provoca o crescimento excessivo, deformações físicas e a incapacidade dos animais de se movimentarem por si próprios (ver Baur e Kevany, 2019, para uma curta revisão) -estes são apenas alguns exemplos. O objectivoé a máxima produção e eficiência. ...
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The person-animal relationship is a central topic in anthropology. The recent emergence of “more-than-human” approaches as a new form of ethnographic and anthropological research and production marks a new turning point in the way the relationship between different species and humans has been understood. Animal sanctuaries are places where animals are treated in a relational framework of friendship, not consumption. Due to this fundamental principle and the characteristics of its functioning, sanctuaries are privileged places to investigate what could be the basis of a positive relationship with animals, and eventually with nature in general. This is an ethnographic work that investigates the context, perception and experience of the relationship between animals and their caretakers in a animal farm sanctuary in rural Galicia. What can we learn from these experiences which can inspire a reflection about this relationship? As far as I know, this is the first work of its kind that poses and seeks to answer these questions. The participatory observation of life in the sanctuary and the analysis of the interviews carried out with the animal caretakers shows that, despite the dilemmas, contradictions and obstacles identified regarding the functioning of the sanctuary, the caretaker’s work can inspire affection and respect for rescued animals and eventually by animals in general. The analysis framed in the phenomenological perspectives of love and re-enchantment.
Globally, extensive research has been conducted on psychological trauma. The main intention of this scientific enquiry was to provide insights into the explanatory and etiological factors of such trauma, as well as provide measures of how to manage and treat it effectively. However, much of these research studies on psychological trauma have focused primarily on victims and witnesses of trauma, completely overlooking and neglecting offenders (perpetrators) and their trauma. This study set out to explore perpetrator trauma among juvenile offenders incarcerated for violent offenses. The study was qualitative in nature, using descriptive phenomenology to provide descriptive accounts of perpetrator trauma as experienced by the participants. A single case study design was utilized as a research design. The data were collected using semistructured audio-recorded individual interviews with 10 participants. The findings supported the existence of perpetrator trauma as the offenders experienced multidimensional consequences from their actions. They experienced various symptoms related to or associated with their offenses and victims, including reliving symptoms , psychotic symptoms, psychogenic amnesia of the offense and the victims, and experienced a persistent negative emotional state. They also engaged in reckless and self-destructive behaviors, avoidant behaviors, and significant behavioral changes could be noted in their behavior.
This chapter addresses the nature, context, and motivations behind the war against nonhuman animals and the sites where the specific War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity take place. Connecting biopolitics (the production of life), thanatopolitics (the politics of death), Mbeme’s (2003) necropolitics (death in life), and Stanescu’s (2013) notion of ‘deading life’ (bodies that are already dead), Banwell demonstrates how, within the animal-industrial complex, nonhuman animals are subject to the violence(s) of “make live” as well as the violence(s) of “let die.” Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations and mega farms are the sites where nonhuman animals are reduced to the status of ‘living-dead.’ Drawing on the concept of slow violence, the repercussions of these ‘death worlds’ are presented. Crucially, Banwell outlines the consequences of confining thousands of nonhuman animals within mega facilities: environmental pollution; increased risk of disease, viruses, infections, and antibiotic resistance. All of which defy human exceptionalism.
The impact of fur farming on public health is considerable, affecting the environment, the surrounding animals and humans, as well as the health and well-being of those working in the industry. The COVID-19 pandemic provides a case study of how diseases can spread rapidly through fur farms. The evidence is that keeping animals in fur factory farm conditions is not only inhumane for the animals, but also has negative implications for human health as well.KeywordsPublic healthEnvironmentDiseasesCOVID-19
This is the master chapter of the book where I defend the claim that any plausible version of African Communitarianism entails anti-natalism on misanthropic grounds. I do this by showing that all understandings of African Communitarianism clearly hold that the harm that humans cause each other is morally weighty. I then turn my attention to addressing the objection that African Communitarianism is unduly anthropocentric such that humans can only have indirect moral duties to non-human animals and nature. This implies that non-human animals and nature are not intrinsically valuable such that harm to them only matters inasmuch as it also harms humans. I respond by showing that while this objection may apply to certain versions of African Communitarianism, that there are indeed multiple versions of it that affirm the intrinsic value of both non-human animals and nature. I conclude by showing that while these considerations demonstrate that those who endorse African Communitarianism ought to accept Benatar’s Misanthropic Argument for Anti-Natalism, in some sense they also establish novel support for anti-natalism on misanthropic grounds.
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With a focus on the animal realm, this essay explores the question of lived and believed narratives and how they can turn from being, at genesis, a compelling creative and empowering force to an oppressive force of disempowerment and destruction. Narratives help us make sense of the world and work out how to behave in it. They are also heavily dependent on emotional and automatic systems and processes. This can lead to a discrepancy between the narrative and its referent that can stretch to the point that the narrative is only beneficial if the impact upon the referent is ignored. Instead of empowering us, such narratives can have the opposite effect, making us fundamentally vulnerable. A notorious case is the narrative that Western tradition has developed in relation to nonhuman animals. This narrative is being progressively dismantled as its consequences for the nonhuman animals, the humans and the entire planet are becoming increasingly harder to ignore.
EDITOR,—Britain is failing to meet targets that have been set for reducing obesity.1 One of the aims of the Health of the Nation strategy is to reduce the percentages of men and women who are obese to 6% and 8%, respectively, by 2005,2 but the Health Survey for England 1994 shows that the prevalence of obesity had increased to 13.2% among men and 16.0% among women by 1994.3 This increase is probably partly due to a reduction in physical activity; the importance of the composition of the diet is not …
Prevalence of obesity is low in people who do not eat meat Vegetarians Stay Slim, Meat-eaters Get Fat Livestock a major threat to environment: Remedies desperately needed
  • E G See
  • Timothy Key
  • Gwyneth Davey
See, e.g., Timothy Key and Gwyneth Davey, " Prevalence of obesity is low in people who do not eat meat, " BMJ 1996;313:816-817,; Christian Nordqvist, " Vegetarians Stay Slim, Meat-eaters Get Fat, " Medical NewsToday, Mar. 14, 2006, 66 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, " Livestock a major threat to environment: Remedies desperately needed, " FAONewsroom, Nov. 29, 2006,; FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION OF THE UNITED NATIONS, Livestock's Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options, Nov. 2006, city/business/13379101.htm (reporting that in 80 fatal or injury-producing accidents in the Kansas City area, half the employers paid fines of $3,000 or less) See also generally DON
  • Mike Casey
  • Osha
Mike Casey, OSHA: Discounted Lives, Kansas City Star, Dec. 11, 2005, available at city/business/13379101.htm (reporting that in 80 fatal or injury-producing accidents in the Kansas City area, half the employers paid fines of $3,000 or less). See also generally DON J. LOFGREN, DANGEROUS PREMISES: AN INSIDER'S VIEW OF OSHA ENFORCEMENT (ILR Press 1989) (describing the first-hand experiences of an OSHA inspector).
(reporting that in 80 fatal or injury-producing accidents in the Kansas City area, half the employers paid fines of $3,000 or less). See also generally DON
  • See Mike Casey
See Mike Casey, OSHA: Discounted Lives, Kansas City Star, Dec. 11, 2005, available at city/business/13379101.htm (reporting that in 80 fatal or injury-producing accidents in the Kansas City area, half the employers paid fines of $3,000 or less). See also generally DON J. LOFGREN, DANGEROUS PREMISES: AN INSIDER'S VIEW OF OSHA ENFORCEMENT (ILR Press 1989) (describing the first-hand experiences of an OSHA inspector).