Why Feel Sorry for Slaughterhouse Workers?

It’s no secret that billions of individual animals will be killed this year to satisfy America’s meat habit. At the slaughterhouse, they’re often scalded to death or dismembered while they’re still conscious. Because slaughter lines move quickly and many workers are poorly trained, stunning animals with a captive-bolt gun often fails to render them unconscious. As one slaughterhouse worker charged with cutting off the legs of conscious cows explained to The Washington Post, “They die piece by piece.”

During a PETA demonstration at a slaughterhouse in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, a slaughterhouse worker came out to ask, “Are you all vegetarian?” When the demonstrators assured him that they were vegan, he responded, “I don’t blame you.”

Animals are tortured and butchered in slaughterhouses, but they’re not the only ones who suffer. While it may be hard for kind people to feel sympathy for someone who is paid to kill animals, many slaughterhouse employees become mentally unwell, even suicidal, not long after working at the ghastly places, as this powerful confession from a slaughterhouse worker shows.

And workers often become sick or are injured because of the unsafe and unsanitary working conditions of these gruesome facilities. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) records show that about 17 “severe” accidents occur each month in U.S. slaughterhouses. Approximately two slaughterhouse workers have a limb cut off by slaughterhouse machinery each week. It’s not uncommon to hear of workers losing an eye, fracturing their fingers, or suffering from head trauma.

OSHA indicates that U.S. slaughterhouse employees are three times more likely to sustain a serious injury than the average American worker. People who work in pork and beef plants are nearly seven times more likely to develop repetitive strain injuries. According to 2017 news reports, two-thirds of workers on Upstate New York dairy farms have reportedly sustained at least one workplace injury, and many say they’re told to work through illnesses and injuries. An Oxfam America report reveals that chicken plant workers fear that they’ll be fired if they take “unscheduled” bathroom breaks, so many wear diapers.

Is it any wonder that some slaughterhouse employees, including the late , who worked at a Tyson Foods slaughterhouse, blow the whistle on the sadistic cruelty that occurs in the meat industry? Recently, a U.K. farmer stopped taking lambs to slaughter and gave his flock to an animal sanctuary, saying that it had been stressing him out and that he didn’t like seeing the “animals going through that stress.”

We can’t expect everyone in the meat and dairy industries to change their ways anytime soon, but we can all help stop the abuse and exploitation that occur in slaughterhouses simply by going vegan and speaking out against all the cruelty and injustice of those wretched industries.