For the sake of a little morsel of meat!
Report about a slaughterhouse
If you like to become a veterinarian in Germany you have to graduate training in a slaughterhouse for several weeks. Christiane M. Haupt writes very closely, what she has experienced and what she felt in doing so. This shortened report should be a set books for every person still eating meat.
“... something prods me from behind in the hollow of my knee. I turn around and look into two astute, blue eyes. I know many animal friends who gush enthusiastically about soulful cat eyes or puppy dog eyes – but who speaks about the intelligence and curiosity in the eyes of a pig? Very soon, I will get to know these eyes in another way: silently screaming because of fear, lethargically because of pain and then without a glance, pulled out of the dens and rolling around over the bloodied floor. A thought touches me, which I will repeat monotonously in my spirit many hundred times in the following weeks: eating meat is a crime – a crime….
After that I have a short walkabout through the slaughter house, beginning in the break room. A open row of windows towards the slaughter hall: wanly and bloody pig halves hover on a production line in a never ending order. Albeit, two employees are having their breakfast. Bread with meat. Their white overalls are bloodied and under a gumboot stick a shred of meat. The inhuman noise is still muffled here but it approached me deafening, as I’m guided into the slaughter hall. I lean back because a pig half swishes sharply around the corner and splashes against the next one. It touches me, warm and pasty. That’s not true – that’s absurd – not possible.
All this together lunge at me. Shrill screams. The screech of machines. Plate rattles. The penetrating stench of burned hair and scorched skin. The fume of blood and hot water. Laughing, unconcerned callings. Flashing knives, meat hooks bored through tendons. Half animals hanging on the hooks without eyes and with vellicating muscles. Meat gobbets and organs which fall splashing in a chute full of blood, in a way that the nasty brew is splashing on me. Greasy fibres of meat on the floor on which you slip. People in white clothes from which the blood is leaking. Under the helmets or caps are faces which you meet everywhere: in the underground, in the cinema, in the supermarket. Automatically, you expect a monster, but it is the nice grandpa from next-door, the uncouth young man from the street or the neat gentleman from the bank. I’m greeted friendly. The director shows me quickly the still empty slaughter hall for the cattle – „On Tuesday we take the cattle! “ – he refers me to a lady and hastens away. “You can have a look into the dispatch hall on your own unhurriedly”. Three weeks passes until I get over to do this.
The first day is still reprieve for me. For hours, I sit in a little room next to the break room and snip little pieces of meat out of a bucket with samples, which is filled regularly by a bloody hand from the slaughter hall. Each piece – an animal. Everything will then be hackled in portions, prepared with hydrochloric acid und boiled for the trichina analysis. The lady shows everything to me. You never find trichina, but it is a prescription.
On the next day I become a part of the giant partition machines by myself. A quick introduction – „Here, remove the rest of the mouth ring and broach the mandibular lymph nodes. Sometimes, there still hangs a horn shoe at the claw which you have to remove“ – and I start cutting. It has to go quickly because the belt is running more and more. Above me, other parts of the cadaver are removed. If the colleague works too snappy or if too many bloody brew ponds in the chute, the pulp splashes up to my face. I try to evade to the other side, but there the pigs are trenched with a huge water spraying saw; it is impossible to stay there without getting wet to the bones. I continue to hack with clenched teeth. I have to hurry too much as that I could think about all this horror and I have to pay attention not to cut in my fingers.
On the next day, I loan a chain glove from a fellow student who has already got this over and done with. I stop counting the pigs which float sopping by. Also I do not use rubber gloves any more. Though it is horrible to rake in the warm corpse with bare hands but as you get besmeared until the shoulders, the gunge of body fluids runs into the gloves anyway. Wherefore are they filming horror film when there is this?
Soon, the knife is blunt. ‘Give it to me – I will just edge it for you!’ The nice grandpa who is a long-serving meat inspector in truth winks at me. After he brought back the edged knife he prates a bit, tells a joke and goes back to his work. In the future, he takes me under his wing and shows me some little trick which eases the assembly line work. ‘Isn’t it? You don’t like it here. I see this. But you have to go through it.’ I cannot find fault with him. He tries hard to cheer me up a little bit. Most of the others also try to help. Surely, they make fun of the many trainees which go and come here, which are shocked and fulfil their time with clenched teeth. But they are doing this good-natured, there are no harassments. I am concerned about the fact that I cannot – apart from few exceptions – feel the people working here as brutes. They are just blunted, as I as well, by and by. This is self-protection. Otherwise you cannot bear it. No, the real brutes are those who order this mass murder day-to-day because of their avidity for meat. Those who force animals to a miserable existence and a more miserable ending – and they force other people to a degrading and abnormal work.
Slowly, I get a small wheel in this enormous automatic of death. Sometime, during the never-ending hours, the monotonous movements become automatic – and exhausting. The brain digs itself out of the depths of numbed senses, nearly stifled because of the ear-deafening cacophony and ubiquity of indescribable horror, and starts working again. Differentiates, arranges, and tries to understand. But this is impossible.
On the second or third day, I recognize consciously the first time that the flushed, breamed and sew pig is still wincing and wiggles with its tail. I am not able to move. ‚They – they are still wincing…’ I say to a passing veterinarian, although I know that these are just the nerves. He smirks: ‚Darn! Somebody has made a mistake – it is not really dead!’ Ghastly pulse shivers in the halves of the animal, all-over. A horror cabinet. I freeze till the core.
Home again I lie down on my bed and stare on the ceiling. Hour-to-hour. Every day. My near environment reacts huffish. ‘ Do not look so unfriendly. Smile. You want to become a veterinarian unconditionally.’ Veterinarian. Not slaughterer. I cannot stand it. Theses commentaries. This disinterest. This implicitness of murder. I want, I need to get this off my chest. I choke on it. I would like to tell about the pig that was not able to walk anymore and sat with straddle hind legs. They kicked and beat it until they beat it into the slaughter box. I saw it afterwards as it swung by already cleaved: muscle rupture at the inner haunch. Slaughter number 350 on this day. I will never forget this number. I want to tell about the cattle slaughter days. About the gentle, brown eyes which are full of panic. About the attempts to escape of all the hits and banes until this disastrous animal stands finally ready in the iron box to get the bolt shoot. The box has a panorama of the hall where the fellows are skinned and dismembered – finally the deadly shoot. In the next moment the chains are around the hind foot and the kicking and winding animal is pulled into the height while its head is cut off below. And the body is still rearing, the legs kicking around – without a head, blood spewing….. telling about the dreadful, smacking sound when a heaver pulls the skin form the body, telling about the automatic rolling movement of the fingers with which the eyeballs – twisted, red veined, pouring out – are removed out of the eyehole and thrown in a hole in the ground in which the “waste” disappears. The smudge aluminium slide on which all entrails land which are ripped out off the huge, beheaded cadavers and which are then disappearing in a kind of chute – despite of lever, heart, lung and tongue which are appropriate to eat.
I would like to tell that there is always to find an uterus in calf amongst these mucilaginous, bloody cluster. I saw little calves in all sizes which looked already complete. They looked tenderly and naked and lay with closed eyes in their protecting amniotic sac which was not able to protect them – the smallest as tiny as a new born kitty and nevertheless a really midget cow. The biggest one was haired softly, brown-white and with long satiny eyelashes, just few weeks before birth. ‘Isn’t it a miracle what nature is able to create?’, the veterinarian asked who was on duty on that day and slid uterus together with foetus into the gargling waste disposal unit. Now, I certainly know that there can not be a god. Because no flash is coming from the sky to avenge this outrage which proceeds again and again.
There is also no god for this miserable meagre cow which is laying convulsive vellicating in the iron, draughty alley in front of the killing box when I came at seven o’clock in the morning. And there is nobody who has a pity with this cow in terms of a quick shoot. First of all the other animals for slaughter have to be disposed. When I left at noon this cow is still lying there and jerking and nobody has redeemed it despite several requests. I ease the halter which cuts into the flesh relentlessly and fondle the forehead. The cow looks at me with these tremendous eyes and I experience by my self that cows can cry.
The guilt to see an outrage deedless is as grievously as the guilt to commit the outrage. I feel so endlessly guilty.
My hands, my overall, my skirt and my boots are smutted with the blood of this cow’s fellows. I am standing under the band for hours and slit hearts, lungs and livers. I was already warned: ‘You always smirch yourself with the cows.’
That’s it, I would like to tell about so that I do not have to bear it alone – but basically nobody wants to hear it. Of course, I was asked very often during this time: ‘How is
it to work in a slaughter house? Well, I could not do this!’ I dig sharp half moons in my palms with my fingernails to avoid to beat in these pitiful faces or to throw the telephone receiver out of the window – I would like to scream. But everything I see on the whole day has smothered every scream in my throat. Nobody asked if I can do this. Reactions to paltry answers reveal discomfort about this subject. ‘Yes, this is really horrible and we also eat meat really seldom.’ Often, I also was incited: ‘Grit your teeth. You have to bear it and then, at least, you will have everything behind you!’ This is for me one of the worst, most heartless and most ignorant comment because the massacre goes on, day by day. I think nobody understood that it was not a problem for me to stand this six weeks, but that this tremendous mass murder happens, million fold – for everybody who eats meat. Especially those meat eater which affirm to be animal lovers become now completely implausible for me.
‘Stop this – do not spoil my appetite!’ I was choked up in this way rigorously more than one time and it was followed by the enhancement: ‘Your are a terrorist! Every normal person is laughing at you!’ How lonely you are in such moments. From time to time I have a look at the little cow foetus which I took home and placed in formalin. Memento mori. Let them laugh, the “normal people”.
Eyes which I can not forget any more, eyes in which everybody should look who desires for meat.
Things abstract if you are surrounded by so much violent death; the own life seems endlessly meaningless. Sometime you look at the anonymous row of fragmented pigs which trundle meandering through the hall and you ask yourself: would it be different if these were human beings? The back anatomies of these animals for slaughter which are thick, pimpled and red-dappled are especially evocative of this which protrudes fatty under tight bath suits on sunny holiday beaches. The endless screams by pigs feeling the death which yell from the slaughter hall could also derive from women or children. Deadening does not stay away. Sometime, I am just thinking: Stop it, this shall stop. I hope he works quickly with the electronically tongs so that it will stop finally. ‘Many of them do not give any sound’, one of the veterinarians told one time. ‘Others are standing there and are screaming causelessly.’
I look at this as well – how they are standing there and are screaming “completely causeless”. More than half of the training has past as I could go into the slaughter hall finally and could say: ‘I have seen.’ The way closes here which started at the loading platform in the front. The bleak aisle in which all hurdlings end becomes smaller and leads through a door in a small waiting hurdling for four or five pigs at a time. I would draw these pigs if I should ever describe the item „fear“ visually. I would draw these pigs which crowd together against the closed door behind them and I would draw their eyes. Eyes which I can never forget. Eyes in which everybody should look who desires for meat.
By means of a rubber sleeve the pigs are separated. One of the pigs is forced in a frame which surrounds it from all sides. It screams and tries to escape into the back. The herder often has a lot of trouble before he can finally close the frame with an electronic gate. The bottom of the frame is replaced by a kind of mobile slide by pressing a bottom. The pig falls on its back onto this slide. A second gate opens in front of the pig and the slide glides over to another box together with the animal. The slaughterer standing next to the box attaches the electrodes - in secret, I always called him „Frankenstein“: a three-point-anaesthesia, as the director explained me one time. You can see the pig rearing up in the box. Then, the slide goes away and the vellicating animals dash against a shut over flown by blood and fidgeted with its legs. Another slaughterer is waiting here. The knife scores unerringly under the right foreleg, a splash of dark blood spurts out and the body slides onward. An iron chain clasps around the hind leg just few seconds later. The animals are pulled aloft, the slaughterer deposits the knife and grabs at a blurred cola bottle which is standing on the floor, covered for centimetres with clotted blood and indulges in a mouthful.
I follow the dangling and bleeding cadavers on the hook in the „high“. Thus, I called the next room. It is high and black, full of smut, smell and fire. After some curves drenched in blood the chain of pigs reaches a kind of huge oven. This is where the bristles are removed. The animals fall from above in a kind of collecting hopper and glide into the interior of the machine. You can see into this machine. Fire flames up and the bodies are shaken for several seconds and seem to perform a grotesque leaping dance. Afterwards, they land with a smack on the other side on a big table. There, they are grabbed immediately by two slaughterers who scrape away remaining bristles. They remove the eyeballs and segregate the horn shoes from the claws. This lasts just a moment, they are doing piece work here. Hooks are fixed through the sinews of the hinder legs and the dead animals are hanging again and are gliding to another steely frame which is designed as a flame thrower: a barking noise and the body of the animal is covered in a dozen of darting flames and is breamed for some seconds. The assembly line starts moving again and leads into the next hall – the one in which I was already standing for three weeks. Organs are taken out and are treated on the upper assembly line: grope the tongue, cut off and throw away the tonsils and gullet, cut off the lymph nodes, lunge to the waste, open air tube and heart, take out a sample of trichina, remove gallbladder and examine the liver for worm lumps. Many pigs are full of worms, their livers are interspersed with worm lumps and have to been thrown away. All remaining organs like maw, intestine and genitals are thrown into the waste. The rest of the body is prepared at the under assembly line: trenched, the joints are truncated, anus, kidney and leaf feet are removed, brain and spinal marrow is extracted etc. Afterwards they put a stamp on the shoulder. Neck, loin, venter and haunch are brought up and transported in the cold storage. Animals which are not suitable for eating are „confiscated temporarily“. Stamping is hard work for unexercised persons. The lukewarm and slippery cadavers are hanging very high at the end of the line and you have to hurry if you do not want to be stroked down by them. Before the scale the halves land with much impact on each other.
I cannot say how often my view wandered to the clock hanging in the break room at these days. I am sure that there is no other clock on this earth which runs slower. Every morning, a break is allowed at half time. I respire, hurry into the washing room and free my clothes provisorily from blood and meat frazzles. I feel as if this defilement and this smell will cling to me for ever. Out, just out. I was never able to eat just a morsel in this house. Either, I spend my breaks outside and it does not matter how cold it is. I go until the barbed wire fence and gaze at the fields and the edge of the wood where I observe crows. Or I go to the shopping centre on the other side of the street. There is a little bakery where you can warm-up with a cup of coffee. Back to the assembly line twenty minutes later.
Eating meat is a crime. Somebody who eats meat can never ever be my friend again. Never. Never ever. I think that everybody who eats meat should be sent through these halls. Everybody should see everything, from the beginning to the end.
I am not standing here because I want to become a veterinarian but because people think they have to eat meat. And that is not all: Also, they are craven. The cutlets welds sterilely in the supermarket have no eyes anymore which flow over because of bare fear of death. It does not scream anymore. Everybody who nourish from disgraced dead bodies keeps away from this: ‘Well, I could not to this!’
One day an agriculturist came and brought a sample of meat for trichina examination. He was accompanied by his little son, perhaps ten or eleven years. I saw how the child pressed its nose against the window and I thought: Wouldn’t there be any hope if children would see all this horror and all these killed animals? I could hear exactly how the boy calls for his father: ‘Daddy, have a look! Cool! This huge saw over there.’
In the evening ‘Aktenzeichen YX ungelöst’ reports in television about a crime with a young girl which have been murdered and dismembered. They tell about nameless horror and about the abhorrence of the population about this outrage. ‘I have seen something similar 3.700 times this week’, I interject. Now, I am not only a terrorist but I am ill in my head on top of everything. Because I do not only feel horror and abhorrence due to a killed human being but also due to the killing of animals which is spurned thousand fold: 3.700 times just in this one week, just in this one slaughter house. Being human – does that not mean to say no and to refuse to be an orderer of mass murder, for just one piece of meat? Curious new world.
The tiny calves, which have been snatched from the womb and which died before they have been born, perhaps had the best lot of all.
Someday the last of these endless days has arrived. Someday I keep the confirmation of my training in my hands. A wisp of paper which I have paid more expensive than everything I ever had to pay for. The doors close. A diffident November sun guides me on my way to the bus across the bare court. Screams and the noise of the machines get quiet. When I cross the street a big cattle carrier with tumbril turns into the access road of the slaughter court. Pigs on two levels, crowed together.
I go without a view backwards. Because I have bear witness and now I will try to forget so that I can live my life on. Others should fight; they have taken my will to fight in this building. They have taken the joy of life and changed them for guild and disabled sadness. The hell is between you and me. Thousenfold, day by day.
But one thing remains for each of us: saying no.
No, no and no again!”
1) It is understandable if the trainee looses the faith in god. On the other hand, if God would end all gruesome doings of the people with a flash – we would have an everlasting firework on this planet. And the people could not age as they do not recognize their wrong doing, rue and make good for this doings. And they would not forebear from their own realization, which means to change positively.
Furthermore: You can search history and you will find people in all times by whom the spiritual world has been admonished and warned. Recently, there was the following warning: if people do not stop to torture, to kill and to eat animals and if they do not stop to defile the nature, the effect of their doings will hit them and „the world wide destiny will begin and people will pass away for hundreds and thousands”. Precise words. But how is it said? Only the one who has ears to hear will hear and realize the signs of time….