Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Culture of Violence: A Look at Earthlings and Slaughterhouse

I watched the movie Earthlings this weekend.  For those of you who aren't familiar with this powerful film narrated by Joaquin Phoenix, it documents the various ways animals are used by man and the suffering that occurs as a result.  From the euthanasia in animal shelters to the abuses in the meat industry and circuses this brilliant film is, at times, difficult to watch.  

I cried twice in the first twenty minutes and spent the rest of the time feeling sick to my stomach.  Days later, I still felt weepy and sad.  Yes, the images were gruesome but what made it even worse was the blatant cruelties shown by those who abuse animals.

A quote by Leo Tolstoy used in the film says, "As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be battlefields."  A culture of violence toward the most innocent of God's creatures can only lead to violence in other areas.

Violence begets violence.

I'm reading the book, Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry by Gail A. Eisnitz which ties in perfectly with Earthlings.  So much of what Eisnitz documents in her brilliant and brave book confirms what I witnessed among the slaughterhouse workers in the film.

The author interviewed employees from John Morrell, the meat company and among the men she interviewed were the "stickers".  A "sticker" is the man on the line who cuts the carotid arteries and jugular vein in the neck of the stunned animal.  It's a dangerous and bloody job especially if the worker before him on the line doesn't properly stun the animal which happens very frequently as the workers are told to turn down the power on the stunner so as not to bruise the meat.  This continues to happen despite employees reporting such dangerous situations to the USDA or OSHA.  

The job takes its toll on the workers.  One of the Morrell "stickers" confessed to hitting his wife and beating his kids when he'd come home from the plant.  Many of the employees had alcohol problems.  "They have to drink, they have no other way of dealing with killing live, kicking animals all day long."  The same man confessed, "some of [the employees] end up abusing their spouses because they can't get rid of the feelings." 

Violence begets violence.

In both Earthlings and Slaughterhouse, there is evidence of the most cruel and inhumane treatment of animals.  Animals who should be stunned or dead being submerged in boiling liquids while still alive some of them trying to swim out of the tank.  Animals who are still alive being shackled and hung.  One worker at Morrell describes it like this, "They beat [the animals] with pipes and stuff like that.  Or stick a big hook up their butt and drag them.  Or in their mouth.  And they're still alive."

In an interview with a man who worked in a horse slaughterhouse, Eisnitz records him saying, "A job like that, it's a job of cruelty. You don't have no conscience.  All you think about is you making your money, you doing your job."

When an animal, human and non-human alike, experiences pain and fear, its body releases large amounts of powerful hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol.  I have no scientific evidence to back this up but have a hard time believing these hormones do not settle in the tissues of the animals which are then consumed by man; powerful hormones that stimulate a fight or flight response. Even if it's just on a spiritual level; this influence is evidenced everywhere.

No one can deny our culture has become more violent.  Acts of violence committed in cold blood make headlines every day and it seems to be easier to compartmentalize and desensitize ourselves to injustice whether it's on Wall Street or Main Street.  We turn our heads.

Violence begets violence.

What I saw in Earthlings was painful to watch.  I had to stop the video several times and walk away as the images were so startling and disturbing.  When I talked about this with Dr. D. later that night, he could clearly see I was upset and asked me why I put myself through such a thing.  This quote from actress and famed animal activist Gretchen Wyler said what I wasn't able to verbalize

"We must not refuse to see with our eyes what they must endure with their bodies."

I could not turn my head and I am changed forever.


  1. Excellent post! I am always amazed when people don't make the connection between the being and the plate. The interesting part of all this is that these very same practices (which I call torture) are used at farms that carry titles such as "humanely-killed" or "free-range" or "grass fed."

    In the end it makes absolutely no difference. The animal is terrified and tortured and murdered for food that humans no longer require.

  2. excellent post and response, Chris and Eric. So glad you are sharing your thoughts with the world! ~ Amie