Book Review: ‘Slaughterhouse’ by Gail A. Eisnitz
In her book Slaughterhouse, author Gail A. Eisnitz exposes the shocking cruelty that goes on behind the scenes in the U.S. meat industry. The author goes undercover in various slaughterhouses and finds inhumane treatment so deplorable that it is described by one of the workers as an illustration of Dante’s inferno: “Hell can’t be any worse than what exists at this place.”
The book is a disturbing insight into what goes on behind closed doors. It shows that in the U.S. meat industry, profit is put above all else, which creates immeasurable suffering for the animals as well as an extremely unsafe work environment for the employees. Workers tell Eisnitz that one day, despite the processing line “going crazy” and “just about every cow that come down the line—at least a hundred of them—was alive that afternoon,” the line was “quickened up.” Unbelievably, Eisnitz found this to be the norm rather than the exception!
Improperly stunned cattle were often shackled and hoisted onto the overhead rail, with cattle kicking and thrashing as they hung upside down. A worker described how the cattle would blink and stretch their necks from side to side, looking around frantically. Despite this, the horrific ordeal continued, and the cow’s head was cut open as she screamed wildly. The skinner proceeded to shove a knife in the back of the cow’s neck to cut her spinal cord, which paralyzed the cow from the neck down but didn’t deaden the pain of being skinned alive or render her unconscious—it simply allowed workers to skin and dismember the cow without being kicked.
Another shocking aspect of the undercover investigation that comes up time and again in Slaughterhouse is the sheer number of workers who say they were silenced and ignored when they contacted U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) supervisors pleading for them to correct conditions at the plant. Workers were desperately calling for the situation to be improved, but they were ignored by the USDA and the rest of the federal government.
This book is a disturbing eye-opener to the way that meat is processed in the U.S., with similar conditions found on factory farms worldwide. Eisnitz brilliantly shows how, by putting profit above all else, the meat industry exploits workers and shows callous cruelty in its indifference to animal suffering. This book is a must-read for anyone who want to know the truth about meat production.
After doing so, you might just decide you want to take the Pledge to Be Veg!
Posted by former intern Samantha Pulsford