Lots of vegans have this idea about slaughterhouse workers – that they are all monsters and psychopaths – but it’s not like that.
I spent a short stint working in a slaughterhouse several years ago. It’s really important to say it’s not something I did by choice. I’m not sure anyone would do something like that through choice; well, maybe a couple of people.
For many, it was a terrible experience, and to try and deal with it they would act out or try to desensitize themselves.
The agonizing pain you are faced with every second, the brutal and dangerous conditions – it all traumatized me.
And of course, it was worse for the animals. It was a vision of hell.
The one thing that stuck – the one thing you can never really understand unless you’ve been there – is the smell. The blood, such an acrid, thick scent, it feels like it physically travels inside your nose and stays there.
The fear has its own scent. It’s not something I could put into words, but even now, I would recognize it.
It’s physically hard too.
These animals know what’s coming, and believe me, they fight against death with every fibre of their being.
The deck is stacked against them; it’s a fight they will never, ever win.
When you are faced with that kind of horror, you almost become numb to it.
After a while, killing became routine. It was just something you did. You just tried to block it from your mind and treat it as a mechanical thing.
I couldn’t possibly think about the living, breathing individual in front of me, I just had to do my hours and get out.
But after my first day, I never ate another animal again. And soon after I went vegan. It wasn’t a conscious decision, it just happened – and now I could never go back.
Of course, you’re not always working on what some refer to as the ‘kill floor’. There are different parts of the plant, and every one of them is horrible.
You might not be killing each animal, but you are sending them to their death, or handling their corpses shortly after.
I was working with chickens. I don’t know what it would be like to – and this is the word some use – ‘process’ bigger animals like pigs or cows.
The worst thing was seeing these poor, innocent animals, and knowing what was going to happen to them. Their whole lives had been misery and they would now die a violent, frightening death, in a cold, brutal place.
This had a huge impact on me. If I hear non-vegans talk about people in slaughterhouses it makes me furious. Calling them monsters or saying they couldn’t do it.
Yes, there were some awful characters, but in the main, it was people like me.
I had suicidal thoughts from the guilt. I still dream about it now, and I can’t look at dead animals packaged up in the supermarket.
If you want to eat any animal product, an animal has to die. You may not be pulling the trigger yourself, but don’t fool yourself, you are responsible for their death.
It’s all a system. As a worker, I was part of the system.
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.
And think about this, as you’re tucking into a roast: you didn’t hear the tortured screams of those animals. You didn’t see them fight with every ounce of their strength to stay alive. You didn’t clean their blood from the factory floor.
I did, and the guilt will haunt me forever.