23 votes

Confessions of a slaughterhouse worker

29 comments

  1. milkbones_4_bigelow
    (edited )
    Link
    I think the questions surrounding language and comparison serve only to avoid the issue. We need only ask ourselves the question, is the consumption of animal products necessary? In the great...

    I think the questions surrounding language and comparison serve only to avoid the issue. We need only ask ourselves the question, is the consumption of animal products necessary? In the great majority of cases, I believe it is not. We value our own desires over the lives of sentient complex beings. This is difficult to acknowledge but I'm certain with some soul-searching the majority of reasonable people will reach the same conclusion without much effort. Should anybody out there be interested in resources/a friendly chat/have questions, please feel free to reach out.

    17 votes
  2. [28]
    cardigan
    Link
    From J.M. Coetzee's The Lives of Animals:

    From J.M. Coetzee's The Lives of Animals:

    I was taken on a drive around Waltham this morning. It seems a pleasant enough town. I saw no horrors, no drug-testing laboratories, no factory farms, no abattoirs. Yet I am sure they are here. They must be. They simply do not advertise themselves. They are all around us as I speak, only we do not, in a certain sense, know about them.

    Let me say it openly: we are surrounded by an enterprise of degradation, cruelty, and killing which rivals anything that the Third Reich was capable of, indeed dwarfs it, in that ours is an enterprise without end, self-regenerating, bringing rabbits, rats, poultry, livestock ceaselessly into the world for the purpose of killing them.

    10 votes
    1. [27]
      vakieh
      Link Parent
      Yeah, no. I don't care how vegan you are, (you as in Coetzee of course) you don't get to equate human and animal life like that. The abuse of sapient beings is incomparably worse than abuse of...

      we are surrounded by an enterprise of degradation, cruelty, and killing which rivals anything that the Third Reich was capable of

      Yeah, no. I don't care how vegan you are, (you as in Coetzee of course) you don't get to equate human and animal life like that. The abuse of sapient beings is incomparably worse than abuse of merely sentient beings, and it utterly destroys any validity of your opinion to claim otherwise.

      19 votes
      1. moonbathers
        Link Parent
        Animals have thoughts and feelings and a personality though, and they are raised by the billions every year entirely for being slaughtered. They feel pain and are often treated terribly while they...

        Animals have thoughts and feelings and a personality though, and they are raised by the billions every year entirely for being slaughtered. They feel pain and are often treated terribly while they live. It's not meant to delegitimize the Holocaust, it's meant to show that animals aren't ours to do whatever the hell we want with. The comparison was made to draw a parallel in how inhumane and industrial we treat livestock.

        23 votes
      2. [6]
        thundergolfer
        Link Parent
        There's been a bunch of philosophy done to on the contrary argue that it's comparably worse. Start with Peter Singer, who's said: They can suffer like we suffer, and the numbers we make suffer...

        The abuse of sapient beings is incomparably worse than abuse of merely sentient beings,

        There's been a bunch of philosophy done to on the contrary argue that it's comparably worse. Start with Peter Singer, who's said:

        β€œAll the arguments to prove man's superiority cannot shatter this hard fact: in suffering the animals are our equals.”

        They can suffer like we suffer, and the numbers we make suffer each year embarrass the terrible figures of the Nazis. Tens of billions live and die in factory farms every year. Billions every year.

        16 votes
        1. [5]
          vakieh
          Link Parent
          No, they can't. And Peter Singer is an emotionally driven animal activist more often than he is a legitimate philosopher.

          They can suffer like we suffer

          No, they can't. And Peter Singer is an emotionally driven animal activist more often than he is a legitimate philosopher.

          3 votes
          1. [2]
            cardigan
            Link Parent
            I've heard Peter Singer called a lot of things, but "emotionally driven" is a first. He's a ruthlessly logical consequentialist.

            I've heard Peter Singer called a lot of things, but "emotionally driven" is a first. He's a ruthlessly logical consequentialist.

            12 votes
            1. vakieh
              Link Parent
              His emotions are different compared to what is considered mainstream to be sure, and he expresses them academically, but they're well and truly still there in a lot of what he says and writes. Any...

              His emotions are different compared to what is considered mainstream to be sure, and he expresses them academically, but they're well and truly still there in a lot of what he says and writes. Any time a philosopher says something like "this hard fact" they've stopped being logical - there's no such thing as a hard fact.

              4 votes
          2. [2]
            thundergolfer
            Link Parent
            I can't take you seriously on this issue, given that you'd comment that.

            I can't take you seriously on this issue, given that you'd comment that.

            1 vote
            1. vakieh
              Link Parent
              His logic from As to Bs is sound, but his 'axioms' are often based in opinion yet he pushes them as objective fact. Add celebrity and you have a recipe for academic activism, which is poison to...

              His logic from As to Bs is sound, but his 'axioms' are often based in opinion yet he pushes them as objective fact. Add celebrity and you have a recipe for academic activism, which is poison to true academic work.

              3 votes
      3. psi
        Link Parent
        I find this comparison of slaughterhouses to the Holocaust to be a frustrating distraction. Sure, we could argue about which is more horrific. The scale of factory farming is certainly greater,...

        I find this comparison of slaughterhouses to the Holocaust to be a frustrating distraction. Sure, we could argue about which is more horrific. The scale of factory farming is certainly greater, but human beings are probably capable of experiencing greater suffering than other animals. Is the justification for the Holocaust worse than that for slaughtering animals? How much worse? Just how many cow lives is one human life worth, anyway? A hundred cows? A million? And we could continue on in this manner ad infinitum.

        Ultimately though, this moral calculus is unnecessary. At some point we should be able to discern that regardless of which is worse, both are awful; that after some threshold -- certainly well before we get to either factory farming or the Holocaust -- we should find the activity morally repugnant. Since we're capable of caring about multiple things at once, we should care about both.

        9 votes
      4. [4]
        papasquat
        Link Parent
        This is one of the most annoying things that some vegans do; equating human suffering with animal suffering. They're not the same, not even in the same ballpark. Just the mere fact that a human is...

        This is one of the most annoying things that some vegans do; equating human suffering with animal suffering. They're not the same, not even in the same ballpark. Just the mere fact that a human is intelligent enough to deduce every step of the way the horrible things about to be inflicted on them in a way an animal is not makes human suffering totally incomparable.

        I hate animals being hurt, but comparing it to the slaughter of human beings is just absolutely ridiculous.

        7 votes
        1. Turtle
          Link Parent
          If worth is dictated by intelligence, what do you make of suffering of the humans who aren't, or at least are less so than average? Does it matter less than the suffering of an average human?

          If worth is dictated by intelligence, what do you make of suffering of the humans who aren't, or at least are less so than average? Does it matter less than the suffering of an average human?

          21 votes
        2. thundergolfer
          Link Parent
          There's no equating going on here, merely comparison. Ahh, animals figure out what's going on and get very stressed too? Also, even if your claim was totally granted, it doesn't get you to the...

          equating human suffering with animal suffering.

          There's no equating going on here, merely comparison.

          Just the mere fact that a human is intelligent enough to deduce every step of the way the horrible things about to be inflicted on them in a way an animal is not makes human suffering totally incomparable.

          Ahh, animals figure out what's going on and get very stressed too? Also, even if your claim was totally granted, it doesn't get you to the subsequent claim that it makes the suffering "incomparable".

          13 votes
        3. wycy
          Link Parent
          Why does knowing what's going to happen make it incomparably worse? In many ways, not knowing can be worse. One of the torture methods used by the CIA was to constantly change the prisoners'...

          They're not the same, not even in the same ballpark. Just the mere fact that a human is intelligent enough to deduce every step of the way the horrible things about to be inflicted on them in a way an animal is not makes human suffering totally incomparable.

          Why does knowing what's going to happen make it incomparably worse? In many ways, not knowing can be worse. One of the torture methods used by the CIA was to constantly change the prisoners' setting so as to deprive them of information, confuse them, and make them never quite sure what's going on.

          10 votes
      5. [8]
        wycy
        Link Parent
        I'm an unabashed carnivore with no plans to ever be otherwise. However: Says who? Animals have thoughts, feelings, personalities, and fears. Animals feel pain. Humans are just one end of the...

        I'm an unabashed carnivore with no plans to ever be otherwise. However:

        The abuse of sapient beings is incomparably worse than abuse of merely sentient beings

        Says who? Animals have thoughts, feelings, personalities, and fears. Animals feel pain. Humans are just one end of the entire spectrum of all animals.

        7 votes
        1. [7]
          mrbig
          (edited )
          Link Parent
          There's a relevant question to be made here: regardless of their ability to feel pain, where is your allegiance? For example, what is your answer to the following question?

          There's a relevant question to be made here: regardless of their ability to feel pain, where is your allegiance? For example, what is your answer to the following question?

          A calf and a human baby are running to a cliff and you can only save one. No one can see you, and legal obligations are irrelevant. Which one do you save?

          2 votes
          1. [4]
            gpl
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            I can't help but feel this is not a fair or even direct comparison. I think we can all agree that in this situation you save the baby. However, a more accurate question (that draws direct analogy...

            I can't help but feel this is not a fair or even direct comparison. I think we can all agree that in this situation you save the baby. However, a more accurate question (that draws direct analogy with killing animals for food) is

            A calf and human baby are standing next to a cliff. You can push one off, but it is not necessary. Legal obligations are irrelevant. Which, if any, do you push?

            The key distinction here is that unnecessary (avoidable) harm comes to pass as a result of a commission (act), as it is the case with factory farming. In the case you provided, necessary (unavoidable) harm only comes to pass as a result of an omission (non-act). The moral character in the two situations isn't the same, and in the example you provided it is in fact different than with factory farming. Surely if we had to choose between eating calves and eating human babies, we would all agree it is better for us to eat calves.

            I will add the big caveat here that necessary harm as the result of a commission of a violent act is different again, and perhaps has even different moral character. This is the case when eating meat is necessary for some reason. The key argument is that in many modern societies, it simply is not. I find that this is a useful framework to think about things.

            9 votes
            1. [3]
              mrbig
              Link Parent
              That is obviously correct, and I had no intention to say otherwise. Of course, we should treat animals well, that is not under dispute. My issue is rhetoric that seeks to equate animals to humans...

              That is obviously correct, and I had no intention to say otherwise. Of course, we should treat animals well, that is not under dispute. My issue is rhetoric that seeks to equate animals to humans in order to achieve that goal. In my view, that is a bad strategy.

              2 votes
              1. [2]
                gpl
                Link Parent
                I think I generally agree it is a bad strategy at least rhetorically. That being said, it is not illogical or even false really. There are clearly ways in which we can and should treat animals and...

                I think I generally agree it is a bad strategy at least rhetorically. That being said, it is not illogical or even false really. There are clearly ways in which we can and should treat animals and humans differently. I'm not convinced that inflicting unnecessary harm is one of those ways, and comparisons between unnecessary harm to humans and unnecessary harm to animals, while rhetorically disagreeable do highlight a central point in the argument.

                1 vote
                1. mrbig
                  Link Parent
                  I have my intuitions, but no actual knowledge of how other animals are similar or dissimilar to humans. Regardless, animals suffer, that much is known. That is enough for me to think they should...

                  I have my intuitions, but no actual knowledge of how other animals are similar or dissimilar to humans. Regardless, animals suffer, that much is known. That is enough for me to think they should not be harmed.

                  With that goal in mind, which persuasion strategy would be the most effective in reducing animal suffering? I happen to think "humans and animals are alike" is not a good one. At least for now.

          2. [2]
            Autoxidation
            Link Parent
            That's not a very fair hypothetical situation. Structured in many other ways, it's almost insulting. Do you save an obviously pregnant woman or a baby? A baby or your significant other? A calf or...

            That's not a very fair hypothetical situation. Structured in many other ways, it's almost insulting. Do you save an obviously pregnant woman or a baby? A baby or your significant other? A calf or Hitler?

            In your scenario, of course you save the baby, but that's doesn't mean you can treat the calf poorly, or show that you can't be empathetic to the plight of the calf.

            This is coming from a regular omnivore.

            3 votes
            1. mrbig
              Link Parent
              Why is it not fair? It is made to demonstrate that, despite our empathy towards animals, we tend to be more sympathetic towards humans. That is relevant information. This is not to say we...

              Why is it not fair? It is made to demonstrate that, despite our empathy towards animals, we tend to be more sympathetic towards humans. That is relevant information. This is not to say we shouldn't treat animals better, but maybe we should moderate our discourse to avoid evident falsehoods and contradictions.

              3 votes
      6. [6]
        mrbig
        Link Parent
        That's a rhetorical exaggeration with the purpose of creating awareness, but like many of the kind it ends up devaluing the vocabulary and inducing the opposite reaction: apathy. If everything is...

        That's a rhetorical exaggeration with the purpose of creating awareness, but like many of the kind it ends up devaluing the vocabulary and inducing the opposite reaction: apathy. If everything is a "holocaust" and a "genocide", then nothing is.

        6 votes
        1. [5]
          thundergolfer
          Link Parent
          This isn't an "everything". Nothing on earth comes close to animal agriculture in the scale of the abuse and death. Since the turn of this century 10 trillion chickens have been farmed and killed...

          This isn't an "everything". Nothing on earth comes close to animal agriculture in the scale of the abuse and death.

          An estimated 50 billion chickens are slaughtered for food every year – a figure that excludes male chicks and unproductive hens killed in egg production.

          Since the turn of this century 10 trillion chickens have been farmed and killed for food. 10 trillion! Look at these numbers side-by-side.

          Approx. population of earth:                           7,530,000,000
          Approx. num chickens killed for food since 2000:  10,000,000,000,000
          

          and that excludes the trillions of male chicks thrown into meat grinders during egg production.

          Try and reckon with the scale of that killing. I don't think it's possible, but it certainly doesn't produce anything near apathy in me, anymore.

          13 votes
          1. [4]
            mrbig
            (edited )
            Link Parent
            My choice of words was poor. Instead of "rhetorical exaggeration", "rhetorical use of imprecision" might have been better. The numbers are not the issue, I am very aware of the magnitude of animal...

            My choice of words was poor. Instead of "rhetorical exaggeration", "rhetorical use of imprecision" might have been better.

            The numbers are not the issue, I am very aware of the magnitude of animal suffering. The issue is the incorrect usage of vocabulary that does not apply to species other than our own for emotional effect. And the problem, in my view, is that the rhetoric is not a persuasive one.

            To make things concrete, let's talk about the word "genocide".

            I know dictionaries and encyclopedias are descriptions rather than prescriptions, but my goal here is not to end the discussion with a seemingly authoritative quote but to give an idea of how the word is most frequently used.

            Definitions for "genocide"

            Emphasis by me.

            Google:

            the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation.

            "a campaign of genocide"

            Wikipedia:

            Genocide is intentional action to destroy a people (usually defined as an ethnic, national, racial, or religious group) in whole or in part.

            (...)

            The United Nations Genocide Convention, which was established in 1948, defines genocide as "acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such" including the killing of its members, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, deliberately imposing living conditions that seek to "bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part", preventing births, or forcibly transferring children out of the group to another group.

            Wikitionary:

            The systematic killing of substantial numbers of people on the basis of their ethnicity, religion, political beliefs, social status, or other particularities. A genocide will always be followed by the denial that it ever happened.

            The systematic suppression of ideas on the basis of cultural or ethnic origin; culturicide.

            (video games, roguelikes) The elimination of an entire class of monsters by the player.

            The Free Dictionary:

            The systematic and widespread extermination or attempted extermination of a national, racial, religious, or ethnic group.

            the policy of deliberately killing a nationality or ethnic group

            the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group.

            the deliberate and systematic extermination of a racial or national group.

            an actor in this process. β€” genocidal, adj.

            Merriam-Webster:

            the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial, political, or cultural group

            Cambridge Dictionary:

            the intentional killing of all of the people of a nation, religion, or racial group

            Urban Dictionary:

            a massacre of a group of people

            like what the turks did to the Armenians in 1915

            Comment

            I believe it is evident that the concept of "genocide" is intrinsically connected with several aspects of the workings of human societies. Not one of those definitions I found generalized it to other species. But all of them used highly specific words and concepts, such as "people", ethnicity, religion, nationality, etc.

            Dissociating "genocide" from the extermination of humans is an operation that may render localized results in the short term, but I personally feel that it can also make it much harder to reach a majority of the people those discourses seek to educate.

            You may very well disagree with that position, but the vast majority of human beings, even those that value animal welfare, do not consider animal suffering as something as tragic as human suffering. I'm not arguing for either, but that's just how the world is right now.

            And, if the goal is to appeal to the sentiments of those that do not care about animal welfare at all, equating animals and humans by using loaded words such as "genocide" will make them less prone to change their opinions. On the other hand, calling the deaths of chickens "genocide" and "holocaust" may even seem disrespectful to all the human beings that suffered and died in such events. You're free to feel and think whatever you want, but be aware that equating the death of chicken with the death of human beings will frequently cause discomfort and anger.

            Besides, logical incongruences will risk alienating anyone that manages to identify them.

            That is a worthy cause, so one must decide what is more important: "sticking it to the man" or actually making a difference.

            2 votes
            1. [3]
              thundergolfer
              Link Parent
              Didn't you bring up "genocide" yourself? It's not mentioned anywhere else in the thread or in the article that's the subject of this thread. It's fair to connect "anything that the Third Reich was...

              Didn't you bring up "genocide" yourself? It's not mentioned anywhere else in the thread or in the article that's the subject of this thread.

              It's fair to connect "anything that the Third Reich was capable of" to "genocide", but I'd like to check that's actually what happened.

              2 votes
              1. [2]
                mrbig
                Link Parent
                Yes, this word wasn't mentioned. I used it as an example to make for a less abstract argument. I was explicit about it: I have seen it overused not only regarding animals. But if that is not the...

                Yes, this word wasn't mentioned. I used it as an example to make for a less abstract argument. I was explicit about it:

                To make things concrete, let's talk about the word "genocide".

                I have seen it overused not only regarding animals. But if that is not the case, the same line of reasoning could be adapted using other common terms.

                1. thundergolfer
                  Link Parent
                  For enough. I agree with you about use of the particular term "genocide". I also do think it's perfectly reasonable to compare factory farming to the holocaust, but not as a way of saying factory...

                  For enough. I agree with you about use of the particular term "genocide".

                  I also do think it's perfectly reasonable to compare factory farming to the holocaust, but not as a way of saying factory farming is a genocide, but simply to compare the scale of each atrocity in terms of suffering and immorality.

                  3 votes