How It Feels To Slaughter Animals

Rhys Southan Bob Comis, who raises pigs for meat, confesses that “no matter how well it’s done, I can’t help but question the killing itself”:

In a well-managed, small-scale slaughterhouse, a pig is more or less casually standing there one second, and the next second it’s unconscious on the ground, and a few seconds after that it’s dead. As far as I can tell — and I’ve seen dozens of pigs killed properly — the pig has no experience of its own death. But I experience the full brunt of that death.

It’s not the sight of blood that troubles me, but the violence of the death throes. Livestock science would assure us that these convulsions are a sign of the pigs’ insensibility, but as a witness, it is almost impossible to believe that the pigs are not thrashing around because they are in pain. And then that sudden lifelessness of the body as it is mechanically hoisted into the air, shackled by a single hind leg. I don’t think anything could be done to make the deaths of the pigs weigh less heavily on me.

I think a lot of animal farmers have the same ethical struggles me, although I’m not sure how many struggle as intensely as I do. I believe this is likely the case with even non-corporate factory farmers. Feeling nothing strikes me as mildly sociopathic.

Update from a reader:

Bob Comis has just followed up with an article in The Dodo. He has taken the next step:

In the current discourse, happy pigs are the ideal alternative to the miserable and abused pigs raised in factory farms. Happy pigs become happy meat, and happy meat is good. We should feel good about eating happy meat.

Happy meat, really? I am haunted by the ghosts of nearly 2,000 happy pigs.

(About a month ago, I had my final crisis of conscience, in a decade of more or less intense crises of conscience. Having abandoned the last vestige of what seemed to be at the time legitimate justification, happiness and a quick, painless death, I became a vegetarian. I am now in the beginning stages of the complicated process of ending my life as a pig farmer.)

Speaking of happy pigs, another reader sends along a video:

Previous Dish on swimming pigs here. One more reader:

I’m a meat eater, I confess. I like meat. That said, I also worked in a slaughterhouse for three years. I don’t think it’s woo-woo to say that I think the people who do the actual killing and dismemberment of animals pay a deep spiritual price. Problem is, in this culture there is no way to process that effectively. Some cultures have a sense of gratitude for the animals and a humility in taking the life of another creature. We don’t. Nowhere is that more pointed than on the slaughterhouse (dis)assembly line. I gave a presentation at a conference a few years ago where I asserted that the line workers carry the psycho-spiritual burden for all of us and particularly for corporate leaders and investors who profit financially. A job shifting more and more to Hispanic immigrants, among those with the least privilege in our culture. I wondered how practices might evolve if executives were expected spend time working the line, both for the sacrificed animals and for the workers. We need a genuine gratitude for both.

Previous Dish on processing livestock here, here, and here.