I was going to write this post about the psychological trauma slaughterhouse workers experience due to the nature of their work. I found my words to be largely inadequate and have instead decided to allow them to speak for themselves. But let me just say, on top of being physically dangerous, slaughterhouse work has been linked with: nightmares, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, PTSD/PITS, domestic violence, and an increased likelihood of committing other crimes.
Quotes from Slaughterhouse Workers
“The first time when I killed it was not easy for me. I feel pity for it. I felt I just wanted to close my eyes, turn around, and run away. It was really sad but the more you do it the easier it gets. Like yesterday I had to shoot cows in the kraal. I climbed over the fence, walked to the cow, and just shot it. I feel nothing anymore. In the beginning it was very bad.”
“As time passes, you get used to it. You feel nothing. You can imagine, if you kill a thing a 1000 times over and over, you wouldn’t have feelings after a while. It kills you on the inside, an abattoir, it kills you. You can be full of blood, it will not bother you.”
“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.“
“But when you’re standing there night after night, digging that knife…They’re fighting you, kicking at you, squealing, trying to bite you—doing whatever they can to try and get away from you… After a while you don’t give a s**t. You become emotionally dead.”
“I had suicidal thoughts from the guilt. I still dream about it now, and I can’t look at dead animals packaged up in the supermarket.”
A worker at a chicken plant said one of his colleagues was “hauled off to the mental hospital” after he “kept having nightmares that chickens were after him”.
“I dream about the cattle, when you stun it, it just fall down, after falling down, when you open the door it will ask you: ‘Why are you killing me?’ “
“I used to have this nightmare where I’d be in my kitchen cooking, and I’d be surrounded by thousands of cows watching me. Always the same f**king dream. I didn’t feel afraid of them, but it was just so bizarre to see these cows and they had that smell about them. That same smell of death. I can’t describe the smell, but just remembering it makes me feel sick.”
“In my dream I see the bleeding line, just the cattle hanging on the line, all whose heads are off. I get this picture often. It’s not nice to dream about blood; you wake up wet with sweat.”
“Maximum six months then you make a change, because if he shoots continuously it will start affecting him. He gets a murderous attitude in him. He will do it to other people. He will stab you with a knife, turn around and walk away.”
**The next quote is graphic. If you don’t want to read that skip ahead.**
“One time I took my knife and sliced off the end of a hog’s nose, just like a piece of salami. The hog went crazy for a few seconds. Then it sat there looking kind of stupid. So I took a handful of salt and rubbed it on the wound. Now that hog really went nuts. It was my way of taking out frustration. Another time, there was a live hog in the pit. It hadn’t done anything wrong, wasn’t even running around. It was just alive. I took a three-foot chunk of pipe and I literally beat that hog to death. 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.”
“What I was having was just to hit. I need to hit, especially my girlfriend. Sometimes, even if you think you can make a mistakes you hit him because eh you don’t have a heart for him. That is why most people at stunning box, they can do it, they can hit their girlfriends. Say ‘hey, I hit my girlfriend yesterday’, or ‘I beat my wife yesterday’.”
“And think about this, as you’re tucking into a roast: you didn’t hear the tortured screams of those animals. You didn’t see them fight with every ounce of their strength to stay alive. You didn’t clean their blood from the factory floor. I did, and the guilt will haunt me forever.”
Not all slaughterhouses are the same. Here is a two part series inside a slaughterhouse that tries to focus on treating the animals as humanely as possible (given what they’re there to do).