Sunday, May 1, 2011


A shrieking pig is put on a block for slaughter. The pig is held down by 2 men and a little girl. The pig struggles valiantly and squeals horribly but the knife eventually finds its throat and the blood gushes into a bucket set on the side of the block. The pig continues to squeal as it bleeds out. The girl is terrified but she obeys orders to move the bucket more directly under the pig's spurting blood. As she watches the pig twitch and finally become still, she looks at the blood on her hands and her clothes.

“Auschwitz begins wherever someone looks at a slaughterhouse and thinks: they’re only animals.”

But the degradation of the food system from uber-institutionalized food production is only part of the story. There is a another dark, gruesome side, seen only by those on the front lines whose days in America’s slaughterhouses are routinely steeped in blood and violence.

Fitzgerald analyzed 581 rural counties in the study from 1994 to 2002, and 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. This study also found that, compared with other industries, the slaughterhouse industry has a more significant effect on community crime rates.”


For every 4000 slaughterhouse employees there was a 2 percent increase in arrests.

There was increased crime in communities where large slaughterhouses were recently opened to communities with smaller and older slaughterhouses.

The control variables were grouped into three categories: demographic, social disorganization, and unemployment.

This study cannot control for the possibility that work in slaughterhouses might attract people who are already predisposed to or involved in disruptive behavior and consequently that the work itself has not caused their anti-social behaviors. However, there is nothing in the literature on slaughterhouse workers to indicate that this is the case.


Since the immigration raid on the Agriprocessors kosher meat plant in Postville, Iowa last May, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which maintains a seat on the board of the National Consumers League (NCL), has diligently been trying to alert the nation that minors were working in the plant, which it had been trying to organize (along with an Agriprocessors plant in Brooklyn) since 2005. Because of its child labor work, the staff at NCL took great interest in the possibility of child labor at the plant.  In late August, the state of Iowa announced the findings of its child labor investigation, concluding that 57 minors, aged 14 to 17, were employed illegally in the slaughterhouse under working conditions rife with health and safety violations. With dozens of articles about the working conditions and child labor at the plant in the national media, including extensive coverage in the New York Times, Sally decided that the story was too big for NCL not to take action, given our history of advocacy on child labor, sweatshops, and worker rights. The nightmarish working conditions seemed eerily similar to those NCL’s founders fought 100 years ago

Eleven-year-old Irfan was one of these child workers whose day would begin at 4 AM with a long walk to the slaughterhouse along with his father. “I used to feel very scared of the screams from the animals as they were being killed. I would tremble with fright,” he recalls.

The revelations of the survey led to the launch of the project aimed at putting a stop to the age-old tradition of children working in the slaughterhouses.

Today, Irfan has finished school and plans to learn driving or electrical work through one of the schemes offered by the government.

The elimination of child labour and the rehabilitation of these children was by no means an easy task. The community was socially mobilised through religious leaders, community stalwarts, community volunteers, and resident community volunteers.

A motivated cleric, Khwaja Moinudin, even admonished the parents, saying: “For too long you have lived off the earnings of your children. You should hang your heads in shame. Give your children their childhood back and honour your responsibilities and duties to them.”

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