Editorial feature: Slaughtering animals, crime, & societal health

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2011:
Phillip Danforth Armour (1832-1901) is
today remembered only for the meatpacking company
he founded, but in his own time was lauded for
allegedly contributing to the progress of
civilization by moving animal slaughter out of
sight, smell, and sound of women, children,
and decent men.
Born into an upstate New York farming
family, Armour drove barge-hauling mules
alongside the Chenango Canal in his teens, then
walked all the way to California at age 19 to
join the Gold Rush. He soon discovered that more
gold was to be made by starting a Placerville
butcher shop than in mining.

Returning east with savings of $8,000,
Armour founded a pig slaughtering business in
Milwaukee in 1867, moved it to Chicago, and
within 20 years was killing more than 1.5 million
pigs and cattle per year. Though others shared
in the invention of high-speed, high-volume
mechanized slaughter, Armour more than anyone
else is credited with conceptualizing the
“disassembly line,” leading to the rise of
industrial slaughter.
This was considered a significant advance
for many reasons beyond merely making meat more
accessible and affordable to urban Americans.
Concentrating stockyards and slaughter at a
single location served by railways helped to make
cities more tolerable places to live than when
livestock were driven through the streets, the
odors and screaming of animals assailed senses
and sensibilities in every neighborhood, blood
flowed through the gutters, and offal heaps were
dumped for dogs and pigs to scavenge in vacant
lots and alleys–as continues in much of the
developing world. The term “shambles” originated
in 16th century Britain to describe the place
where slaughter was done, and remains a common
description of disreputable properties.
Removing slaughter from the local
commercial districts serving residential
neighborhoods also removed slaughtermen, whose
working practices and recreational pursuits,
including brawling, public drunkenness, and
gambling on animal fights, had already been
widely decried by humanitarian reformers for more
than a century before Armour’s time.
Bull-baiting, in particular, had evolved
directly from the medieval European practice of
using bulldogs to hold cattle while their throats
were cut, and contributed to the development of
dogfighting. Cockfighting was also a “sport” of
butchers and their suppliers. Though gambling
and animal fights had been banned in many
communities since Puritan times, they tended to
remain ubiquitous until after slaughter was
banished to the margins of cities.
Phillip Armour toward the end of his life
attracted the fawning attention of Orison Swett
Marden (1850-1924), a prolific author of
self-help books. “It is after business hours,
not in them, that men break down,” asserted
Marden in Cheerfulness as a Life Power (1899).
“Men must, like Philip Armour, turn the key on
business when they leave it, and at once unlock
the doors of some wholesome recreation.”
Marden wrote of how Armour personally
distanced himself from slaughter at the very
height of the 1898-1899 tainted beef scandal
involving the Armour slaughter empire that
inspired Upton Sinclair (1878-1968) to author The
Jungle, a novelized exposé of the slaughter
industry published in 1906, five years after
Armour’s death.
Observed Sinclair, “Men who have to
crack the heads of animals all day seem to get
into the habit, and to practice on their
friends, and even on their families, between
times. This makes it a cause for congratulation
that by modern methods a very few men can do the
painfully necessary work of headcracking for the
whole of the cultured world.”
Industrializing the mayhem moved it out
of the daily experience of most people, but
scarcely changed the psychological effects of
killing animals, quantified in our own time by
Amy J. Fitzgerald of the University of Windsor
and Linda Kalof and Thomas Dietz of Michigan
State University in a 2009 study entitled
Slaughterhouses and Increased Crime Rates: An
Empirical Analysis of the Spillover From “The
Jungle” Into the Surrounding Community,
published in the journal Organization &
“More than 100 years after Upton Sinclair
denounced the massive slaughterhouse complex in
Chicago as a ‘jungle,’ qualitative case study
research has documented numerous negative effects
of slaughterhouses on workers and communities,”
Fitzgerald, Kalof, and Dietz opened. “Of the
social problems observed in these communities,
the increases in crime have been particularly
dramatic. These increases have been theorized as
being linked to the demographic characteristics
of the workers, social disorganization in the
communities, and increased unemployment rates.
But these explanations have not been empirically
tested, and no research has addressed the
possibility of a link between the increased crime
rates and the violent work that takes place in
the meatpacking industry.”
Therefore Fitzgerald, Kalof, and Dietz
did a complex set of statistical comparisons of
the demographic variables in 581 counties from
1994 to 2002, compared to the FBI’s Uniform
Crime Report database. “The findings,” they
concluded, “indicate that slaughterhouse
employment increases total arrest rates, arrests
for violent crimes, arrests for rape, and
arrests for other sex offenses in comparison with
other industries. This suggests the existence of
a ‘Sinclair effect’ unique to the violent
workplace of the slaughterhouse, a factor that
has not previously been examined in the sociology
of violence.”

Findings parallel hunting studies

Fitzgerald, Kalof, and Dietz used
similar methods and some of the same raw
demographic and crime data that ANIMAL PEOPLE
used in a 1994-1995 set of comparisons of hunting
license sales with child abuse convictions in the
232 counties of New York state, Ohio, and
Michigan. The initial study, covering the 62
counties of New York state, found that in 21 of
22 direct comparisons between counties of almost
identical population density, the county with
the most hunters also had the most child
molesting. Twenty-eight of the 32 New York
counties with rates of child molesting above the
state median also had more than the median rate
of hunting. The second ANIMAL PEOPLE study
demonstrated that among the 88 counties of Ohio,
those with more than the median number of hunters
per 100,000 residents had 51% more reported child
abuse, including 15% more physical violence,
82% more neglect, 33% more sexual abuse, and
14% more emotional maltreatment. The third
ANIMAL PEOPLE study found that Michigan children
were nearly three times as likely to be neglected
and twice as likely to be physically abused or
sexually assaulted if they lived in a county with
either an above average or above median rate of
hunting participation.
ANIMAL PEOPLE concluded that the
parallels prevalent in all three states support a
hypothesis that both hunting and child abuse
reflect the degree to which a social
characteristic called dominionism prevails in a
particular community. Stephen Kellert, in a
1980 study commissioned by the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service in part to discover effective
defenses of hunting, defined dominionism as an
attitude in which “primary satisfactions [are] derived from mastery or control over animals,”
a definition which other investigators extended
to include the exercise of “mastery or control”
over women and children. Kellert–a hunter who
for 30 years has struggled to deny the import of
his findings–reported that the degree of
dominionism in the American public as a whole
rated just 2.0 on a scale of 18. Humane society
members rated only 0.9. Recreational hunters,
however, rated from 3.8 to 4.1, while trappers
scored 8.5.
Fitzgerald, Kalof, and Dietz found much
the same tendencies in their study of
slaughtering and crime, including “sexual
attacks on males, incest, indecent exposure,
statutory rape, and ‘crimes against nature,'”
they reported. “Many of these offenses are
perpetrated against those with less power,”
Fitzgerald, Kalof, and Dietz noted. “We
interpret this as evidence that that the work
done within slaughterhouses might spillover to
violence against other less powerful groups,
such as women and children.
“The use of the term spillover here
derives from the cultural spillover of violence
theory developed by Larry Baron and Murray Straus
(in 1987-1988),” Fitzgerald, Kalof, and Dietz
explained. “The central tenet of this theory is
that the more a society tends to endorse the use
of physical force to attain socially approved
ends-such as order in the schools, crime
control, and military dominance–the greater the
likelihood that this legitimization of force will
be generalized to other spheres in life, such as
the family and relations between the sexes,
where force is less approved socially. Although
the authors did not specifically discuss the
slaughter of animals as part of this process, we
argue that it is a possibility.”
Concluded Fitzgerald, Kalof, and Dietz,
“The results presented here therefore demonstrate
significant and unique effects of slaughterhouse
employment on several crime variables. These
effects are not found in [other industries with a
demographically comparable workforce], and they
cannot be explained by unemployment, social
disorganization, and demographic variablesŠIn
particular, our results lend support to the
argument, first articulated by Sinclair, that
the industrial slaughterhouse is different in its
effects from other industrial facilities. We
believe that this is another of a growing list of
social problems and phenomena that are
undertheorized unless explicit attention is paid
to the social role of nonhuman animals.”

Temple Grandin found hints

Ironically, much as research meant to
help promote hunting produced hints pointing
toward the association of hunting with crimes
against children, research commissioned by the
slaughter industry pointed more than 20 years ago
toward the association of slaughter with violent
crime and crimes of sexual exploitation.
Summarized Colorado State University
professor of psychology and animal science Temple
Grandin in her 1988 Anthrozoos commentary
Behavior of Slaughter Plant & Auction Employees
toward the Animals, “Abuses of animals at
auctions and slaughter plants occur often. In
1984, an investigator was hired to make
unannounced visits on sale day at 51 livestock
markets in 11 southeastern statesŠ32% had either
rough handling or acts of cruelty. Twenty-five
federally inspected U.S. and Canadian slaughter
plants were visited by the author between 1975
and 1987,” at which eight had “acts of
deliberate cruelty occurring on a regular basis.”
At three others Grandin observed “rough handling
occurring as a routine practice.”
Found Grandin, “Approximately 4% of the
employees directly involved with livestock
committed acts of deliberate cruelty,” while “In
some poorly managed plants and auctions over half
the employees engaged in rough treatment of
animals. Personal observations indicate that
severe rough handling, abuse, and neglect on
farms, ranches, markets, and feedlots have
remained at a steady 10% to 15% of operations for
the last ten years over the entire United States.”
Grandin was optimistic, based on results
from slaughterhouses where she was able to
personally initiate programs to reduce sadism and
rough animal handling, that the problems she saw
could be remedied. But Grandin noted
psychological tendencies among slaughter workers
which had been familiar to Sinclair–and probably
to Armour, whose habit of distancing himself
from his work after business hours Marden
approvingly cited.
“The most common management psychology is
simply denial of the reality of killing,”
observed Grandin. “Managers will use words such
as ‘dispatching’ and ‘processing’ to avoid this
reality. The people who actually do the killing
in slaughter plants have three different
approaches to their jobs. These are the
mechanical approach, the sadistic approach, and
the sacred ritual approach. These approaches
usually are observed only in the people who
actually do the killing or who drive the animal
up the chute. The mechanical attitude is most
common. The person doing the killing approaches
his job as if he was stapling boxes moving along
a conveyer belt.”
Recommended Grandin in conclusion, “It
is important to rotate the employees who do the
killing, bleeding, shackling, and driving.
Nobody should kill animals all the time. Several
plant managers and supervisors state that
rotation helps prevent employees from becoming
sadistic. The author has worked many full shifts
driving livestock and operating the kill chute at
slaughter plants. Rotation every few hours
between the kill chute and driving cattle up the
chute made it easier to maintain a humane
attitude. It is also easier to maintain a good
attitude in plants with a slower line speed. At
1,000 hogs per hour it is almost impossible to
handle the hogs properly. The constant pressure
to keep up with the line leads to abuse.
Maintaining respect for animals is much harder at
1,000 hogs per hour compared to 500 hogs per
But even Armour’s slaughter lines worked
at what would now be considered very slow line
speeds. At slower line speeds, employees may be
able to work more precisely, causing less
suffering to each animal they kill, if they make
this a priority, but the underlying
psychological issue is still the cumulative
effect of taking lives, at whatever speed and in
whatever environment.
The butchers who used bulldogs at the
London shambles when the Royal SPCA was founded
in 1824 usually killed just one or two animals
per day. Recreational deer hunters typically
kill only one or two animals per year, yet the
association of hunting with spillover into
violence against children was starkly clear in
the ANIMAL PEOPLE studies.
Ultimately the question is whether
killing animals can ever be done without
emotional consequence to those who do the
killing, regardless of the purpose and
regardless of the approach of the person doing
the killing.
Phil Arkow in The Humane Society & the
Human Animal Bond: Reflections on the Broken
Bond (1985) quantified the psychological effects
of killing dogs and cats on shelter workers.
Killing nearly five times more dogs and cats then
than now, shelter workers mostly took what
Grandin described as the “sacred ritual
approach,” and still do.
Shelter workers have rarely ever been
involved in violent crimes against anyone else,
but in the mid-1980s had rates of alcoholism,
other substance abuse, clinical depression, and
suicide comparable to those of Vietnam War combat
veterans. The introduction of psychological
counseling programs for shelter workers may have
helped, but post-traumatic stress among shelter
workers has receded mainly coincidental with
shelters killing far fewer animals.
There is now widespread public
recognition that killing fewer dogs and cats at
animal shelters, for whatever cause, is an
indication of progress toward becoming a
healthier society, in which life and well-being
are more highly valued.
There is also increasingly broad public
recognition of the need to improve the welfare of
farmed animals, indicated by the success of
pro-farm animal welfare ballot initiatives,
petitions seeking to place more such initiatives
before voters, and expanding commercial interest
in labeling products as humanely produced.
Though many of these measures fall
disappointingly far short of achieving the
substantive improvements they promise, that they
are advancing at all is a remarkable turnabout
from the century-plus of “out of sight, out of
mind” attitudes toward farmed animals that
Phillip Armour introduced.
Yet most of humanity has not so far
recognized that killing fewer animals to eat–or
best, none–would also contribute to becoming a
healthier society, both physically and
psychologically. Much research, before
Fitzgerald, Kalof, and Dietz, pointed toward
positive effects on physical health from not
eating animals. Now studies of the societal
health effects of killing animals as an industry
have begun.
As academic papers stereotypically
conclude, “More study is necessary,” since no
one study will sway the world. But relevant
questions are at last under examination.

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