Slaughterhouse Blues (Why I am Vegan Part II)
Hogs have been genetically tampered with for so long that we no longer know many of their natural attributes. We do know that in nature no hog is pink. That is a genetic modification because people like "light colored pork". We also know that no hog in the wild gets up to 800 pounds which is a ridiculously obese size. Many times when I worked at IBP (Iowa Beef Producers, which is the largest producer of "pork" in the midwest and I am fairly certain in the nation) I would see hogs that were so unnaturally overweight that one or all of their limbs were crushed under the weight. In this essay I am going to go back to that chamber of horrors to better detail the suffering that thinking, feeling and sentient beings we know as pigs endure at the hands of speciesist human oppressors.
Early in the morning it starts, semi-loads of doomed pigs arrive at the slaughterhouse. They are packed in "assholes to elbows" as the drivers so succinctly put it. At least three hogs per truck will be deemed "unfit for human consumption" usually due to huge abscesses on their hind legs. This happens because a few hogs per trailer always get their rears stuck against the air hole grating. When this happens their hindquarters become horrifically blistered from a 30 hour ride in this condition. Imagine sitting on a school bus with no pants and a cheese grater for a seat. Upon arrival an IBP supervisor inspects the hogs. Any hogs that absolutely cannot be "used" get thrown out behind the facility to either die of exposure or to starve to death. Its not uncommon to see drivers or IBP supervisors stabbing hogs in the hind legs with pocket knives to pop abscesses and continue with business as usual. The hogs then get filtered from the back of the trailers to the pen runs. This is a very temporary holding area where they wait to be killed. On the opposite side from the trailer docking is the "shoot". All the hogs get forced into this single file death run made of tubular steel. Once inside the shoot they are on a death march, they cannot turn around and because of the steady flow of their doomed brethren being forced in behind them, they cannot stop. Hogs have the cognitive ability of a 5 year old child. They are very smart and very aware what's happening. They tremor from fear, some are so frightened they lose control of their bodily functions. Others faint and get pushed along their bellies to death. In any event, there is no stopping.
The impending horror is immanent. Once at the top of the shoot there is an abrupt 45 degree ramp. At the top of which an electrified bolt thrusts out and jolts the hog in the head to knock them out. They then land unconscious, or awake and paralyzed on the conveyor belt. Here they meet the "sticker". The sticker has the job of stabbing the hogs in the throat and shackling their hind leg so that they bleed to death while hanging upside down. At the IBP plant in Perry, Iowa the stickers wear hockey masks so that if a hog regains consciousness prematurely and kicks them in the face, they will be protected. Can you imagine being hung upside down by a lunatic in a hockey mask and having your throat cut! So much for your welfarist "humane slaughter" ! Very quickly they awaken gushing blood from the throat, traveling upside down in a corridor of congealing blood. The floor beneath is pitched at a 45 degree angle so that much of the blood drains into the blood tanks one level beneath the kill floor in a department called rendering. As they awaken they begin kicking and panicking. This is good according to industry standards because it quickens the bleed out. At the pinnacle of this A-frame shackle drive, the slow ride is over. They slide along the shackle channel very fast, approximately 35 ft descent and 40 ft in length. Because of this acute slide angle approximately one in every one hundred hogs fall from the shackle and end up on the floor beneath. There they stay drenched in the blood that rains down from the "sliders" above. Every shift change the line stops just long enough to power-spray the "jelly" off of the "fallers" and shackle them back up for "production", on the kill floor.
Hopefully by the time they reach this point they are dead, but that is not always the case. The first machine is the "beater". This machine is much like the rollers of a car wash except they rollers have thick nylon ropes with knots on the ends. This machine beats the hair off the hogs. Next is 'the washer'. This is a long scalding hot water bath/basin. This gets the residual hair that the "beater" missed and softens the skin for "disassembly". From this point everything works at a "break neck pace" (a term coined by the slaughterhouse industry in reference to the speed with which the kill floor operates). The head and hoofs are chopped off. The flesh peeled, salted, and stacked on pallets to be shipped to a leather tanning facility. The ribs sawed and broken and the innards dumped into stainless steel trays traveling along a conveyor belt to rendering with the blood tanks, bone cages and other waste bins. Every slaughterhouse has a section or sometimes separate facility on the same property called "rendering". A more accurate description would be "junkyard of death". Blood tanks, bone bins, 40 gallon drums of eyeballs, etc. The slaughterhouse industry is in cahoots with many, many food producers to hide their death junk in various foods. Many mass produced breads have powdered bones in the mix. Gelatins and lards get shoved into everything from cupcakes and Twinkies to car and truck tires. Blood gets used for rennet, an adhesive and oddly enough an ingredient in cheese (Sorry vegetarians but your cheese is not vegetarian. Its a combination of lactation and blood). And on and on.
It must be said that rendering is such a disgusting and wretched mess that few can stand it. I once had to work welding a blood tank and the smells were so intense I spent the four hours it took to complete the task, vomiting in a bucket, much to the amusement of the workers. I wish I could more accurately portray the evil and insanity of an IBP plant. But I can't. Words and videos only tell a small truth of the filth and misery. I can't describe the smells, the screams , or the terror that these animals experience. So often Animal Rights Activists will get hung up on one detail or part of the kill process but I will tell you its sick and wrong from start to finish! I will say this as well, its not intentionally cruel. This is the way it must be done to feed several million people several billion animals. Its unreasonable to ask that people that kill animals all day long as fast as technologically possible to also care about the animals at the same time. No! The answer is to GO VEGAN and destroy the death camps, raze them to the ground just as if they were Aushwitz or Dachau! Because that is what they are, concentration camps to the hundredth power!
But before my anger carries me away let's return to the slaughterhouse so I can explain the human oppression as well. The grunt workers, the ones that deal with all the gore, filth and danger are known as the "white hats" (In IBP, your place in the hierarchy is worn on your head with the color of your hard hat, denoting your rank). The white hats were all African immigrants except for the clean-up crews which were all Latino immigrants. The white hats run the kill floor, rendering and stacking and salting skins. They are paid the bare minimum and allowed no leeway whatsoever. They work 12 hour shifts with a 20 minute lunch and two 10 minute breaks. They are constantly threatened with write-ups for the slightest deviation from the rules or slow down in production. Three write-ups within six months and they're fired, turned into immigration and deported. Approximately 1 out of 5 white hats is missing a finger or part of their finger from working at ridiculously frantic pace with pneumatic scissors and saws.
The white hats' direct supervisors are the "yellow hats". There are three yellow hats in every area of the facility with the exception of the kill floor which has five. Every yellow hat I ever saw was an extremely angry 30-40ish white male, whose main job seemed to be to ridicule and frighten the white hats. I was a "blue hat" which meant I was a construction worker for an independent contractor, not to be confused with IBP maintenance men which wore "red hats". I had full run on the facility and was allowed to be anywhere at any time. That kind of freedom angered the yellow hats. More than once I had to explain to a yellow hat that my work was none of his business and to stay out of my way. The yellow hats bosses are the "green hats". The green hats are rarely seen on the floor unless the USDA are present or production has stopped for any reason. The USDA were known as the "white coats" due to their white smocks. Now, the USDA has real power. They can shut down a facility without notice at any time and for any length of time. For this reason everyone is nervous when the white coats are around. But as I said the demand for meat is huge. Quotas to suppliers cannot be met if a facility were to close for even 24 hours. Anybody that works in a slaughterhouse sees so many health violations occur in a day that you couldn't keep count of them all if you tried. The white coats know this, so the way it goes is no surprise. Literally, no surprise visits. Three days before a USDA inspector visits, the slaughterhouse is alerted. A massive clean up is initiated on the day of inspection. The white coats walk from one end of the plant to the other with their face buried in a clipboard and flanked on either side by green hats. The kill line is temporarily slowed down while they're in the building. The whole inspection takes about a half hour. Before the USDA can even leave the parking lot, its back to the break-neck pace and filthy gore.
Long after I left that hideous facility in Perry, Iowa and went vegan, I found myself wondering why do we as a "civilized" society allow this to happen? Why did I not personally intervene when I had the chance? Why did it take me several years after bearing witness to this atrocity to seriously begin speaking out and fighting against it? The answer to all these questions is one word: speciesism. We, humanity, feel that we are inherently better and more important than all other forms of life put together. So completely do we believe this that even many of those that are vegan and animal rights activists have yet to contend fully with their own speciesism. For if we had a real sense of the evil wrought against animals that people call "food", the movement for their liberation would be far more voracious and militant than it is now. Instead of consoling each other with how much we "feel their pain" (which we don't) or simply falling apart at the seams whenever viewing or even thinking about their plight (which helps a doomed animal about as much as total apathy), we should ante up and do something about it.
The proper response to evil is not fear. The proper response to wickedness is not helplessness. The proper response to callousness is not to weep uncontrollably. The proper response to evil, wickedness and callousness is outrage, confrontation, and action! We need to look deep within ourselves and be honest about how much stronger we would feel about acting against these horrors and insanities if they were happening to people and then bridge that gap in our own speciesism. For on the day that we do we will quit crying all the time for the Animals! And start fighting all the time for the Animals! Our Mother Earth and her Animal Nations need us to be effective not affected. The truth is that we self-professed animal defenders have a greater knowledge of these atrocities. We also presumably have a higher sensitivity to them. And I assert that we therefore have a greater responsibility to do something about it. To have a greater knowledge about a crime and do nothing about it is in itself, a crime. It is called complicity.
And here's some knowledge. All the Animals that die annually for fur, entertainment, and vivisection globally, those numbers of dead are equaled by the American meat packing industry in one day! Over half of our fresh water, drinking water goes to "livestock"! The number one polluter of our water is the run-off aka shit from farmed animals. The number one culprit of deforestation and displacement of indigenous people is the meat industry! But simply knowing these things doesn't change them. Any more than knowing a recipe is going to feed you.
Its time to liberate, educate and agitate.
Animal Liberation, whatever it may take!
Please write to and support Walter at:
Walter Bond # P01051760