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Watch any of the documentaries about what goes on at slaughterhouses and it’s enough to put you off stepping foot inside a butchers again – let alone taking up a job in the meat industry.
And it turns out it’s not just vegans who feel that way.
According to Farmers Weekly, 10,000 jobs at major slaughterhouses aren’t being filled – which is potentially going to impact on the number of festive meats available in time for Christmas.
The shortage of willing labor has become increasingly severe in the past year, says Nick Allen, the chief executive of the British Meat Processors Association (BMPA).
Last year, less than five percent of jobs were left unfilled. This year, that’s soared up to 15 percent.
“There were no major problems last year but we could see a scenario where they (meat processors) say ‘sorry, we can only do so many animals this week’.”
That in turn, Farmers Weekly claimed, might see a knock-on effect to other parts of the industry, with butchers being unable to transform hunks of carcass into recognizable cuts of meat.
It’s hardly surprising.
Slaughterhouse work has been linked to a variety of disorders, from PTSD to drug addiction. Amy Fitzgerald, a criminology professor at the University of Windsor in Canada found a strong correlation between towns which had big slaughterhouses and high crime rates.
Although no doubt low income had something to do with that, she maintained that abattoir life was also partly to blame because workers had become desensitised.
In 2006, Ed Van Winkle, a US-based former pig killer, described the work that slaughtered had forced on them.
“The worst thing, worse than the physical danger [of on-the-job accidents] is the emotional toll,” Winkle said.
“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.”
Psychiatric literature is still fairly limited, because we tend to model it around very discrete episodes.
‘Vision of hell’
A former abattoir worker wrote for Plant Based News last year, saying slaughterhouses are like ‘a vision of hell’.
They wrote: “Most of the people were like me, they didn’t want to be there, but had no other option. People need a roof over their head and food to eat.
“Yes, I killed animals – too many to count. But do I have more blood on my hands than any non-vegan? I would say no. Supply and demand. As long as people continue to eat animals, someone will have to kill them.
“I did, and the guilt will haunt me forever.”