the human cost of slaughterhouses
When it comes to factory-farmed animals that are rendered for meat, everyone looses. A friend sent me an article from the LA Times today, which discusses one aspect of the problems associated with the way the U.S. “produces” meat by following the inter-ethnic tensions in one meat-packing town in Nebraska. This article only touches on a much bigger story about the total cost of of the meat industry in the United States.
Schlosser tells us about a number of other problems with the industry: many workers immigrate with false promises of citizenship from company recruiters, animals are treated cruelly and killed inhumanely, the conditions in slaughterhouses lead to a high risk of food contamination and the human workers in the slaughterhouses are in great danger on a daily basis. To stress this last point, Schlosser tells us:
In 1999, more than one-quarter of America’s nearly 150,000 meatpacking workers suffered a job-related injury or illness…more than five times the national average…The actual number is most likely higher [because]…the meatpacking industry has a well-documented history of discouraging injury reports, falsifying injury data, and putting injured workers back on the job quickly to minimize the reporting of lost workdays.
This problem is so serious that in 2005 the Human Rights Watch issued a statement identifying meat-packing plants the most dangerous factory job in the U.S. Not only are their jobs physically dangerous, but I imagine being forced to kill and dismember other lives and bodies so many hundreds of times a day has a psychological toll on people. I don’t know that any slaughterhouse provide free psychiatric treatment to workers to help them cope with the horrifying nature of their job. The violent nature of the industry and the abuses that surround the treatment of workers has effects on the communities that illustrate what a horrible industry this is. In one study, researchers found “that slaughterhouse employment increasestotal arrest rates, arrests for violent crimes, arrests forrape, and arrests for other sex offenses in comparison withother industries.” 
I recently asked someone from the Humane Society of the United States why he thinks the animal protection movement meets so much cultural resistance. One reason he suggested is that the horrors of animal industries are so horrific that the average citizen doesn’t actually believe it when they hear about it; they assume that there are already laws to protect against such blatant injustice and cruelty. I, however, don’t think that this is the case. Call me a pessimist, but I think I am merely being a realist. I know plenty of people who read articles and books that discuss these topics, watch exposes of factory farms and slaughter houses, link environmental devastation to factory-farming, hear all the news of people dying of food-born illnesses that are generated because of slaughterhouse and factory farm practices and know that animals and humans alike are exploited for the sake of big-business animal enterprise profits. Many people are also aware that the greatest health epidemics in the country are directly tied to two things that Americans consume more of now than ever before: high fructose corn syrup and the flesh of dead animals. Somehow, when their stomachs grumble, they still manage to eat a hamburger without reflecting on all the death, pain, torture, manipulation and exploitation that every bite engenders.
Fitzgerald, Amy J., Linda Kalof and Thomas Diets. (2009). Organization & Environment, 22: 158-184.
Greg Crister’s book, Fat Land , is a great fast read on the obesity issues and high fructose corn syryp.